Staci Richard of Santa Barbara’s Laguna Blanca School will leave for Washington, D.C., in June to serve on Capitol Hill as a representative for the teachers of America. As one of 20 in the nation to receive the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educators Fellowship, Richard, a science teacher, will join her fellow prize-winners to participate in the national public policy arena.
The Albert Einstein Educator Fellowship seeks to supply the perspective of real classroom teachers to Congress and other branches of the federal government. Richard was one of 250 applicants for the program, which specifically focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics educators.
Richard proved desirable because of her wide range of experience, according to Laguna Blanca spokesperson Tara Broucqsault: She has taught biology and general science courses for grades five through nine, has instructed in both public and private schools, and worked as a teaching assistant while attending graduate school at UC Berkeley. She will be on sabbatical from Laguna Blanca for the entire next year.
“The entire Laguna community has been incredibly supportive about this opportunity,” Richard said. “I am excited to use this year to help me grow both as a teacher and as a leader in education.”
Although her exact assignment on Capitol Hill is yet to be determined, Richard is certain she will be focusing on No Child Left Behind, a program she finds both interesting and challenging. By further exposure to the pros and cons of this program, Richard said she hopes to gain a clearer understanding of the question of teacher accountability and the role of standardized testing in education. She could be assigned to work with a specific House or Senate member, or she could find herself part of a House or Senate committee dealing with educational policy.
While she is keeping, she said, an eternal open mind concerning her placement, Richard hopes to be placed with Representative George Miller or as a fellow to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Richard’s perspective is passionate and progressive. She said that encouraging students to become scientists is one of her main goals. “I believe that by exposing students to actual science, [as practiced by professionals] from doctors to lawyers to geologists, students begin to see the realm of possibility available in the sciences, as well as learning about the interdisciplinary nature of science.”
Richard, who currently holds the title of Science Department Chair at the K-12 private, college preparatory Montecito school, said she is perpetually challenged to keep up with the quickly changing science world.
“It is essential that schools and educational leaders support their science teachers in a way that allows them to keep on top of the latest scientific advances so they can translate those advances and the associated excitement to their students,” said Richard.