First Graduate With Teaching Credential Continues to Learn and Lead

Stephanie Morgado teaches students at Mare Island Technology Academy

Stephanie Morgado still remembers the moment she knew a career in teaching was right for her. As she conducted an electricity experiment in a 4th grade Oakland classroom, the Berkeley undergraduate combining an astrophysics major with the Cal Teach minor realized the impact she could have on learning.

“The questions the students asked at a young age made me interested in finding creative ways to help them learn. I saw how their attitude toward science and math changed, and that motivated me,” recalls Stephanie, whose abilities and commitment to high-need schools earned her a prestigious Cal Teach Robert Noyce Teaching Scholarship.

Three years after becoming the first Cal Teach student to graduate with a teaching credential, she remains enthusiastic about her chosen profession. She says, “I’m passionate about the kids and subject matter I teach.”

Soon after graduation, Stephanie joined Mare Island Technology Academy, a public charter school in Vallejo, California, that serves middle and high school students, many of whom come from the city’s large Latino community. Since then, she’s taught high school chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, and environmental science as well as AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) classes preparing students for higher education.

Few of the school’s graduates have gone on to a four-year college, but administrators and teachers have been working to change that outcome. Stephanie says, “There’s been a unique opportunity to make a school better. This opened opportunities to instill a college-going culture and create a more rigorous academic curriculum.”

She’s been leading the effort to improve science teaching at the school. She says, “I can see how much better students are doing in science. They’re learning and—I hope—enjoying science. They’re questioning the world around them and becoming critical thinkers. I’d love them to become scientists, but if I can help them become critical thinkers, they can become successful in any career.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie is also learning. She explains, “I learn something new every day through my teaching practices, observing other teachers, and trying different strategies. I reflect on what worked and what didn’t work. You always have to reflect if you’re going to improve.”

She stresses the importance of reflection with the more recent Cal Teach graduates she now mentors. She also observes their teaching, provides feedback on how to structure a class, and guides them in the crucial skill of classroom management. Stephanie says, “Without effective classroom management, you’re not going to get through the curriculum. That’s the biggest thing new teachers need to know.” She also shares her insights as a member of the Berkeley Science and Math Initiative advisory board, a group of Berkeley faculty, math and science education leaders, and local teachers that supports the further growth of Cal Teach and Math for America Berkeley. This year, the latter organization awarded Stephanie a Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship, which provides science and math teachers with the resources and professional support they need to excel in urban classrooms. In her first year of teaching, she’d received similar support for professional development from the National Science Teachers Association as one of a select group of New Science Teachers Academy Fellows.

Though she’s already making an impact in school and in her profession, Stephanie says, “I’ll take advantage of any resources and opportunities available to me. I still have a lot to learn as a teacher, and I often go back to my lesson plans and change them.”

She ticks off a list of professional goals: Instill change. Gain national board certification. Pursue opportunities to do research in a lab, just as she had as an undergraduate working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with astrophysicist Carl Pennypacker. Go back to school to eventually earn a doctoral degree, while continuing to teach.

“I want to keep learning and keep getting better as a teacher,” Stephanie says. “I want to be able to pass my experiences on to help other teachers be well prepared to help kids. That’s what we should all be in the classroom to do.”