A year and a half ago I had never heard of the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA). Then I met the wonderful Deborah Tucker first at the ASCD conference in LA and then quickly thereafter at the NSTA conference in Boston in the spring of 2014. For some reason, she remembered me and suggested that I might want to check out NSELA as an organization to join.
Like many educators, I have several professional organizations to whom I pay (or have paid) dues: NSTA, CSTA, ASCD, ISTE, NMLSTA, CUE, ASTE, etc. I've presented at conferences for several of the organizations. But I'll tell you, NSELA is the first one in which I've felt like I have a place to do more than just pay dues. I love ASCD, NSTA, CSTA, ISTE and CUE, but they're all relatively HUGE organizations. NMLSTA and ASTE are tiny and highly specialized. But NSELA? It's like the goldilocks bed that was just right. It's not too big. It's not too small. It's not too broad and not too specialized. It feels just right.
I attended last year's NSELA Summer Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs, which featured the amazing Rodger Bybee and Kendall Zoller. I learned a ton but given my career change (moving out of the classroom for the first time), I was really just focused on absorbing all that I could. I think a huge part of me was wondering, last year, if I really had what it took to be a science leader...after all NSELA is the science education leadership association.
This year is different in so many ways. I not only survived my first year out of the classroom, I'd like to say that I actually thrived. More often than not, unless wading through district bureaucracy, I felt like I was in my element. I felt at home. So, it was with a lot of hope that I applied for the NSELA Emerging Science Education Leader Scholarship. It's easy to say that I had nothing to lose, but it's always hard to put yourself out there. Not too long after applying, I found out that I had been selected. I think it was just some external validation that I'm in the right place. I know we shouldn't need that external validation. But, let's face it, it matters.
And so I find myself in Tampa, FL this week with some 100+ amazing science educators who are each leaders in their own way. Some, like me, are active on a local level, others work on a state or national level. Regardless of their context, each of them is inspiring and I look forward to continuing to learn from them in the years ahead.
Incidentally, I've been live-tweeting through the summer leadership institute and I've met a lot of people and made friends that way. Tomorrow I'll host a "Tweet & Eat" session at lunch to get folks up and running on Twitter. I guess I'll juggle that tech hat with my science hat for a little while longer after all. Heck, they even mentioned to me that they need folks for the PR committee. Perhaps that's my first step to becoming active in this group...and then who knows?
So, thanks NSELA for making me feel just right here and for supporting my trip to Tampa for the 2015 Summer Leadership Institute.