Madelene Loftin was named Mississippi’s Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year in 2008. Shortly after receiving that honor, Madelene joined HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach team. Ever since, she has been doing her part to inspire Alabama students to pursue careers in science, while inspiring science teachers to be better educators. Madelene is also the newest president of the Alabama Science Teachers Association.
Q: How and when did you arrive at HudsonAlpha?
Like many people around here, we are not native Huntsvillians. We lived most of our adult lives in Jackson, Miss. My husband, James, is a civilian employee of the U.S. Army and went to work with AMRDEC at Redstone Arsenal. I usually tell people that we are ‘BRAC-ish’ because his job prompted our move here. I sent my resume to my father, who forwarded it to his friend, Lucia Cape, with the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, who gave it to Dr. Neil Lamb. I interviewed in March of 2009 and started work by attending Biotech Bootcamp alongside the Biotrain interns in June of 2009.
Q: What is your role at HudsonAlpha?
I work primarily the K – 12 aspects of Educational Outreach. I lead student groups through whole and half-day field trip experiences here at HudsonAlpha. I work with Jennifer Carden to provide content support and professional development to teachers in a variety of formats including embedded training and our GTAC program and GREAT workshop. During the summers I am lead instructor for the middle school biotech camps.
What is your educational background?
I graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile, Ala., married and had my first son before I even started college. My B. S. degree is in biology from Mississippi College. My second son was born between first and second semester of my senior year. I did my undergraduate degree with a baby on one hip. Armed with my biology degree, I received alternate route certification and began teaching at Provine High School in Jackson, Miss. I worked in three different high schools in Jackson over the next 15 years. I earned my master’s degree in education from Mississippi College by studying nights and during summers while I was teaching.
Even though I am not currently enrolled in a degree program, I consider
myself under the tutelage of most of the Educational Outreach team. I came to the team with plenty of teaching experience, but only a rudimentary understanding of molecular biology. I had lots of ideas of how things should be in classrooms, but far less understanding of how to actually make it so. The longer I’m here, the more I learn and the more I’m able to teach the students and teachers I encounter.
How did your teaching experience prepare you for this role?
As an educator, I created exercises and activities for my students to help them with complex content. Those lesson creation skills have served me well in this position. I have worked on creating new content for the HudsonAlpha kits and the seventh grade genetics and biotechnology module. My professional development work has served me well as I work with groups of teachers through our GTAC program and GREAT workshop and training teachers to use HudsonAlpha kits.
In the classroom, I saw a new group of students every 90 minutes, each group with their own personality and individual needs, strengths and stumbling blocks. I think that being able to adjust to changing demands plays a key role in being able to handle the many different kinds of tasks I encounter here in Educational Outreach. On any given day I may be working with a group of students in the teaching lab, writing lessons or creating new activities, aliquoting solutions for a kit, training teachers or helping a group of visiting adults through a strawberry DNA extraction.
What sparked your passion for science and what keeps it strong?
I come from a family of educators. My father used to say that I had a
predisposition for the profession, but I think that is because I was bossy
as a child. When I finally got around to going to college, I knew I wanted to teach but wasn’t sure what my subject area would be. I enjoyed my English classes and thought maybe I would enjoy that. It was my science classes that I found myself talking to my husband about at the end of the day. It was in those classes that I found myself most engaged and enthusiastic.
Science wasn’t my best subject. In fact it challenged me considerably. Fairly quickly I realized that this was something I could see myself teaching others and I’ve been doing that ever since. What keeps that passion strong? This stuff is just stinkin’ cool!
What is it the best part of your job?
This job is the best of both worlds for a teacher. I get to continue my work with students through field trip groups and summer camps. I get to expand my work with teachers through GTAC and teacher training. I get to be in a place where I am constantly exposed to new and exciting discoveries. How could it get any better?
Please tell us about the educational awards you have received.
I received a few awards. For the 2006/07 school year, I was named Teacher of the Year for Jackson Public Schools. In 2007 I received a Milken Educator Award. In 2008 I received the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award for Mississippi from the National Association of Biology Teachers.
If you know a deserving biology teacher, nominations are being accepted on the Milken Family Foundation website.