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#WhyIChoseEducation: ‘I Believe in the Nobility of the Teaching Profession and that Quality Teachers Change Students’ Lives,’ Says Science Education Doctoral Student Matt Reynolds ‘20PHD

Matt Reynolds

This is part of a monthly “Why I Chose Education” series in which NC State College of Education alumni, students, faculty and staff share why they chose education.

For Matt Reynolds ‘20PHD, being a teacher is in his blood. As a fourth generation educator, teaching has always been a part of his life, but being able to merge his passion for science with education led him to pursue a career as a science educator.

Reynolds is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Learning and Teaching in STEM in the program area of study in science education. This past year, he worked directly with edTPA Coordinator Sarah Cannon, Ph.D., as an edTPA graduate assistant, where he taught all edTPA workshops and bootcamps, answered students’ questions and held weekly office hours for teacher candidates in the edTPA portfolio process. The edTPA is a performance-based, subject-specific assessment that measures preparedness among teacher candidates. He also served as a student teaching supervisor for the undergraduate science education program.

After graduation, Reynolds plans to seek a post-secondary position as a science teacher-educator and researcher. His research interests include teaching quality, teacher knowledge, teacher assessments and pre-service science teacher education.

“I have been fortunate enough so far to find multiple opportunities in the NC State College of Education to work alongside fantastic faculty on education research and policy work, as well as opportunities to teach at the post-secondary level,” he said. “I really feel that my Ph.D. program at NC State has served as an authentic apprenticeship for my future career in academia.”

When Reynolds isn’t studying or working, he enjoys working on projects, from building furniture in his woodshop, fixing and restoring his classic Ford pickup truck, to completing do-it-yourself projects around the house. Reynolds shares why he chose education, why he chose the NC State College of Education and how education has shaped him as a life-long educator.

Why I Chose Education: I believe in the nobility of the teaching profession and that quality teachers change students’ lives. We live in a society that is often turning to science and technology to solve many of its problems. The world needs more scientists if we are ever going to find cures for diseases, like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, or solve other eminent problems related to global climate change and the world’s energy future. Fields related to science and technology are among the fastest growing in our job markets today and simply do not have enough qualified applicants. Sadly, I believe this is due in part to a lack of effective science educators that possess the knowledge and skills to transform complex scientific content and concepts into meaningful instruction for their students. It was these beliefs that prompted me to pursue a career in science education.

Why I Chose the NC State College of Education: I decided to attend NC State for three reasons. First, I was impressed by the diversity and academic activity of the STEM education faculty. I knew being able to work with such faculty would help me develop the skills I would need to be a successful teacher educator and researcher in the future. Second, attending NC State presented the possibility to work with pre-service science teachers — an opportunity simply not available at schools with smaller education programs. Finally, I was strongly encouraged by my undergraduate advisors to attend NC State as they believed it was a program with a strong reputation in the science education research community and that it was continuing to improve.

How Education Has Shaped Me: Besides the first four years of my life, I have either been a student or been a teacher, and oftentimes both. I would wager that over the past 10 years, I have spent more time in a schoolhouse than in my own home. I think the biggest thing that I have taken away from my work in education is there is always something more you can learn to hone your craft. Whether that is learning more about your content area or implementing new pedagogical approaches, you can always get better. So, I think working in the field of education facilitates me being a lifelong learner even when I may no longer be a formal student.

An Experience in the College of Education That Has Changed Me: My position with the edTPA has been fantastic because it allows me to work with teacher candidates and teacher educators from the entire College of Education. I have really enjoyed being able to learn more about the subject-specific pedagogical approaches across the different content areas. This has not only allowed me to reflect on how I could do things differently in my own teaching practice, but it makes me feel more connected with other members of our teaching community.

What Others Should Know About the College of Education: I have seriously debated if Poe Hall’s proximity to food on Hillsborough helps it build a strong community. I have countless times popped into the graduate lounge on the fourth floor and said, “Anyone want to get lunch?,” and then left with a small lunch bunch. Those lunch conversations often include us fondly reminiscing about our experiences in our former K-12 classrooms, which remind us why we decided to pursue doctorate degrees in education — the students.