ABCTE Graduate Spotlight: Diane Nutbrown, Ph.D., Chemistry and Physics Teacher for The Neighborhood Academy Alumni Profile
Meet Diane Nutbrown, Ph.D.
- Job Title & Employer
- Chemistry and Physics Teacher; Science Senior Seminar Instructor, The Neighborhood Academy
- ABCTE Program
- January 2020
- Carnegie/Collier Township, Pa.
- High School
- Chartiers Valley High School
- Now Living In
- Glenshaw, Pa.
- Hobbies & Interests
- Hiking, running, traveling and spending time with my daughter
"The ABCTE program provided the most efficient route for me to become certified in secondary education to expand my career options ... I have had only positive experiences with the Point Park University School of Education faculty. They are responsive to questions and supportive of their students. I never doubted their commitment to my successful completion of the ABCTE program."
With a Ph.D., what inspired you to become a science teacher?
Teaching is my vocation and I earned my Ph.D. in chemistry in order to teach at the college level. Throughout my graduate education, I reflected on this career goal: I often asked myself if I needed to be a college professor or if I could teach high school, instead. Each time I came to the same conclusion: I can always do outreach to K-12 schools if I am college faculty, but I cannot teach upper-level concepts to college students if I am a high school teacher. Hence, I remained committed to my goal and taught at the university level for a decade.
My shift to teaching high school was primarily a tactical decision. I am a single-mom-by-choice and it was important to me that my daughter have a strong relationship with my parents and our extended family, who primarily live in Pittsburgh. I was an assistant professor of chemistry at Emporia State University at the time of her birth and knew how challenging it would be to relocate to Pittsburgh as an inorganic chemistry faculty member. After all, I was in Kansas because there are limited job openings in the field each year. I believed that switching to teaching high school would help facilitate my geographic move, which was my priority.
I had successfully taught my ideal college course load of general and inorganic chemistry classes for several years and could cross those off of my “bucket list.” Simply put, I had done what I earned my Ph.D. to do. I loved my job, but I felt ready for a new challenge and to challenge high school students to excel beyond their expectations. I wanted to share my enthusiasm for chemistry with younger students to motivate them to pursue chemistry and prepare them for further study.
For those students not interested in a STEM career, I could help them become more scientifically literate. I would bring my experience as a college professor to the high school classroom and mentor students as they navigated their college decision. I became a high school science teacher to inspire the next generation of creative and critical thinkers.
Why did you choose our ABCTE program to earn your teaching certification?
I chose the ABCTE program as an alternate path for earning my PA teacher certification because I already have a terminal degree and am a single parent who needs to work full time. Hence, I did not feel the need to enroll in a master’s program in education and I did not want to participate in an unpaid student teacher practicum. I obtained a temporary teaching permit as part of the ABCTE program and am a salaried instructor at a private college preparatory high school in Pittsburgh teaching chemistry, physics and a senior capstone course in science. The ABCTE program provided the most efficient route for me to become certified in secondary education to expand my career options.
How did you land your teaching position with The Neighborhood Academy in Pittsburgh?
I was actively seeking employment in the Pittsburgh region and had completed a generic application on the PA-Educator.net website. Rev. Tom Johnson, co-founder and Head of School at The Neighborhood Academy at the time, saw my profile and called me to discuss their job opening in chemistry. It sounds corny, but I thought, “maybe I’m ‘called’ to work there.” I never formally applied for the position. Rev. Johnson simply started the interview process and asked that I send him a copy of my resume. I had a few other interviews and one other offer, but I chose to accept the job at The Neighborhood Academy because I thought I could have the greatest impact there.
Describe your experience and courses in the ABCTE program. How did our faculty help you?
Once I completed testing through the ABCTE program, I became a Point Park University student. I then completed graduate-level education classes in Differentiated Instruction and 21st Century Schools online before moving to Pennsylvania. I appreciated assignments in which we journaled about how we would incorporate what we were learning into our own teaching or generated lesson plans or materials that could be used with students or parents.
Course content that provided concrete strategies and examples that could be adapted to my classes were most helpful. My 12-week placement was satisfied by my full-time position at The Neighborhood Academy so I did not complete the mentoring aspect of the program until after I had taught for a year in my new role. Nothing can beat first-hand experience for recognizing what teaching practices are most successful with a given population of students. I wish that I had completed a course related to classroom management prior to teaching, because that was a critical weakness in my first year.
I read and incorporated strategies from The First Days of School and The Classroom Management Book this past summer and am enjoying a more successful second year in the classroom. I also completed the required seminars this past winter and learned more about classroom management through those tutorials. Authentic classroom teaching experience is critical. The required 12-week mentoring experience ensures ABCTE candidates have that opportunity to pilot test lesson plan strategies, classroom technologies, etc. I have had only positive experiences with the Point Park University School of Education faculty. They are responsive to questions and supportive of their students. I never doubted their commitment to my successful completion of the ABCTE program.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I definitely benefitted from the flexibility of the ABCTE program and online education courses. Point Park University worked with my schedule and accommodated my needs.