Secondary Education program celebrates milestones

FIU graduated their first Earth Science Education majors during the spring semester’s commencement ceremony for the School of Environment, Arts and Society in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The Earth Sciences with Earth Science Education degree program was first implemented by the college’s Department of Earth and Environment in 2009.

“The common practice is that teachers who teach earth science are often trained in another discipline, whether it’s education, biology or chemistry,” said Dean Whitman, associate professor and undergraduate program director for geosciences. “Earth sciences is very interdisciplinary by nature and requires a specific breadth of knowledge. The earth sciences education graduates will be trained as geologists, hydrologists, chemists and ecologists. They will have the chance to touch rocks and minerals and work in labs, so they will have hands-on experiences in those areas that others might just learn about from a book. It’s revolutionary.”

Majors entering their final semester are required to complete an internship by teaching at a local school in Miami-Dade County, often juggling multiple subjects and different grade levels.

Willy Orozco is among those who received their degree during the April 30 ceremony. Torn between pursuing a career as an electrical engineer or a school principal, Orozco opted to marry his passions for science and education by entering the degree program his freshman year. Orozco recently spent four months teaching fifth grade Florida science and sixth grade earth space science at Gulliver Academy.

“The middle schoolers were amazing and a joy to teach. They’re the perfect age, since they’re old enough to understand complex material and young enough to still be amazed by science,” Orozco said. “The entire experience reinforced my conviction that I want to be an educator. It answered so many questions I had about how to teach and how to do the trade. We’re currently in a paradigm shift of education and I want to be a part of that change.”

The Secondary Education program also celebrated the graduation of three Mathematics with Mathematics Education majors and a History with Social Science Education major.

The programs are split between discipline-specific courses offered in the College of Arts & Sciences and courses offered in the College of Education. Degrees are offered in biological sciences, chemistry, earth sciences, English, mathematics, physics, geography, history and political science. The graduates of these programs earn a bachelor’s degree in the discipline and are endorsed for full-teacher certification in the State of Florida.

“This program is one-of-a-kind in that it’s a marriage between the subject and education,” said Alina Dominguez, academic advisor and Title V Activity 7 coordinator for the College of Arts & Sciences. “Our majors have the opportunity to study with education researchers in both colleges to explore the discipline-specific needs of the secondary school teacher. Most importantly, they leave college armed with the understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of academics. So the next time a middle- or high-schooler asks him or her, ‘When will I ever use this?,’ they will know how to answer accurately and convincingly.”

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