Mark McDermott ’95
In 2009, Mark McDermott ’95 transferred his love for teaching high school science to a new venue: training future science educators as a professor at Wartburg College. McDermott teaches science methods courses, elementary education science content courses, and biology lab courses.
Why did you become a professor of education?
As much as I enjoyed teaching science at the high school level, I was definitely ready for a new challenge. Finding ways to help students develop sound teaching strategies based on solid teaching philosophies, appropriate views of how students learn, and accepted views of the nature of science, is an extraordinary challenge, but the reward is the opportunity to see these students embrace and defend their own views on these issues. I also really enjoy the exchange of ideas that happens in small liberal arts colleges, both in the classroom with students and in the college as a whole.
What helped prepare you for college teaching?
The great experiences I have had teaching high school science in public schools in Iowa, the outstanding colleagues I have had, and my graduate school coursework all have a tremendous impact on what I do every day. But over and over I am reminded of the impact of my own undergraduate experience at Cornell.
What has carried with you from your Cornell experience?
Not only did the professors in the education department at Cornell provide me a wonderful example and model of the type of engaging, challenging, and productive classrooms I try to provide my students, but the biology professors also provided me a rich and varied background in science content and science learning that was and is foundational in how I approach science teaching and learning.
I also felt like the way education courses were taught gave us a broad view of education and did not try to oversimplify the profession. It is difficult to teach teacher education courses because there is really no way to know the specific situations graduates will be in when they start teaching, but I thought I received an education that gave me an appropriate amount of pedagogical knowledge for teaching science, along with a “big picture” idea of what education should be all about.