From the president.
Subject: Periodical publishing (Services)
Author: French, Donald
Pub Date: 11/01/2012
Publication: Name: The American Biology Teacher Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 National Association of Biology Teachers ISSN: 0002-7685
Issue: Date: Nov-Dec, 2012 Source Volume: 74 Source Issue: 9
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Product: SIC Code: 2721 Periodicals
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 308743622

In any project or journey, whether in time or space, there are always milestones--activities or events that can be seen as notable accomplishments, as highlights that characterize that venture. Some milestones may simply reflect duration; my college has chosen to provide pins for years of service. I wonder how those symbols of milestones matter to each recipient--are they signs of loyalty, the ability to survive, sustained quality, or just the passage of time? Some milestones are associated with life-changing events--leaving home for the first time, a first appointment as a teacher, the birth of a first child. We all have our milestones past and future, personal and professional, individual and in common. This December holds a personal one for me (a birthday ending in a 0) and several we share in common.

A milestone we reached this year was the 50th anniversary of the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA). The program was developed to honor secondary-school biology educators--in each of the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories--who exemplify the ideals of our association through teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships. This effort has been sustained by the generosity of 50 years' worth of corporate sponsors like Leica Microsystems, Inc., as well as the efforts of the hundreds of NABT volunteers who have assumed the responsibilities of OBTA Directors in each state or province.

This December also marks the transition to our 75th Anniversary year. I do not want to steal a moment of that from Mark Little, our incoming president, who will have the enjoyment of presiding over the activities that will commemorate our accomplishments and set the stage for the future. Nor do I want to prematurely release the results that stem from the History Committee's outstanding work in assembling, reviewing, selecting highlights, summarizing, and writing about the history of our association (I do wish to offer my thanks to former presidents Pat Waller and Bunny Jaskot for letting me peek at their notes as I prepared this message). However, my excitement forces me to make some comments.

First, as we produce historically related materials over the next year, please take the time to view them. Much is to be learned from our past that can help us succeed in the future. We have a history of meeting the challenges of academic practice; of advancing reform, equality, diversity, and environmental concerns; and of promoting high-quality biology education when facing those that question the validity of well-supported science and practice. From these challenges emerged our position statements, which continue to be developed and revised, our letters of support, editorials and commentaries and sometimes much more, all aimed at supporting biology teachers and, through them, the education of millions of students during our existence. Such advocacy is an important activity of our association, and I look forward to NABT addressing new issues of importance to biology educators as we turn 75.

Over the years, our awards programs have grown as well. In addition to the OBTA, which started with the 25th anniversary of NABT, we offer 15 awards. While all share a common goal of recognizing and promoting excellence in biology education, each is designed to promote and recognize specific types of accomplishments. What awards we have chosen to offer, how many, and how often not only tells the recipients that we value them, it also shows our peers, all the stakeholders in education, and the public what we value. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, NABT established the Distinguished Service Award to recognize nationally renowned scientists who have made major contributions to biology education through their research, writing, and teaching. Subsequently, we have added other awards. I look forward to what the 75th Anniversary might offer and invite you to communicate your ideas with NABT leadership.

Despite the work of the History Committee and the historical record represented by the NABT, I still wonder what the founding members imagined the future would hold in 1938. Think of all the changes in the science of biology--the areas of molecular genetics and neuroscience are two that immediately come to mind, but we could all create lengthy lists of vast changes and new fields--proteomics, metagenomics, computational biology, systems biology, synthetic biology. Has our teaching kept up? What about the methodologies we use? There is mention of collaboration, inquiry, emphasizing concepts over memorization, the merits of teaching process skills, and depth over breadth dating far back in our history. Would the founders imagine how our classes look today? Would they be surprised at the differences, the similarities, or at the continued contention over the approaches to use? Perhaps it is easier to imagine their thoughts if we compare teaching and laboratory technologies. I am sure you recognize at least one of the following: chalk, slide rule, kymographs, camera lucida, or opaque projector. For the ones you did not, you probably "Googled" them, a perfect example of how today's environment differs from 1938. Today's tools include probeware, thermal cyclers, GPS units, and all that the Internet offers. During all these changes, we have kept pace and supported each other through changes in the content and organization of the ABT and our professional development conference and by incorporating new means of communication and dissemination such as electronic News and Views, Facebook, and the new NABT Ecosystem, which should come into its own as we turn 75.

During our existence we have also responded to the calls for reform and to society's needs. We were here when the GI Bill helped returning WWII veterans extend their education and when the launch of Sputnik in 1957 prompted interest in STEM education. It has been almost 30 years since the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983), with its controversial critique of the state of education, followed by reports, recommendations, and calls to action such as Science for All Americans (AAAS, 1989), National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), Beyond Bio 101: The Transformation of Undergraduate Biology Education (HHMI, 1998), Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists (NRC, 2003), and Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2007). NABT has been here the whole time, providing a forum for members and nonmembers to exchange teaching strategies and results of research to help address the issues raised. As we end this year and enter the next, we continue to transform the ideals called for in Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education (AAAS, 2010), the Framework for K-12 (NRC, 2012), and the AP Biology Curriculum Framework (College Board, 2011) into practice through such activities as our AP Biology Leader Academy in partnership with BSCS, and the Vision and Change Summit at the 2012 Conference.

I think it is appropriate that the final issue of 2012 is focused on reproductive biology. The articles provide our characteristic mixture of content and pedagogy, transforming lessons on reproductive physiology, embryology, and development into inquiry and active-learning approaches for the classroom and laboratory. I also see reproduction and development in our association's future as the activities and research of the past and present give birth to new ideas, as we take on new members, and as we develop to meet the needs of future generations of teachers and students.

As much as I have enjoyed this year, I look forward to the exciting possibilities for the next. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as president and to work with an outstanding new executive director, a dedicated Board of Directors, the many hardworking committee chairs and members, regional coordinators, OBTA directors, state and provincial representatives, section chairs and leadership, past presidents, and our other volunteers. I ask you to thank them all as well, and to join them in helping to serve this association in 2013, and to contribute to our proud history. I look forward to seeing you at our 75th Anniversary and, hopefully our 100th!

DOI: 10.1525/abt.2012.74.9.1


AAAS. (1989). Science for All Americans. Washington, D.C.: AAAS.

AAAS. (2010). Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action. Washington, D.C.: AAAs.

College Board. (2011). AP Biology Curriculum Framework 2012-2013. New York, NY: college board.

Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st century. (2007). Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, D.C.: national Academies Press.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute. (1998). Beyond Bio 101: The Transformation of Undergraduate Biology Education. Beloit, WI: BioQUEST curriculum consortium.

National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, D.C.: government Printing office.

NRC. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. (2003). Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. Washington, D.C.: national Academies Press.

NRC. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Donald P. French

NABT President--2012
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