Path to the Classroom: Biology and Teaching

Posted: May 29, 2017 10:00:00 AM CDT

Curtis Reese Biology and TeachingEducation had always been a priority for Curtis Reese as he pursued his passion for biology, but he never planned on becoming a teacher. Now he inspires students every day in the classroom—and they inspire him.

Reese is currently a biology teacher at Norfolk Senior High School and an adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska. His path to the classroom began with two online programs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK)—one in biology, the other in teaching.

“I had [an undergraduate] biology degree, but I wasn’t qualified to be a teacher,” Reese said. “A fellow teacher…told me that UNK has this Transition to Teaching program [now called the Transitional Certification Program]. So I was able to teach while getting my teaching certificate.”

He also heard about UNK’s online Master of Science in Biology program by word of mouth—a degree that allowed him to build on his knowledge and passion in the sciences. He knew UNK’s online programs were the best chance to get his foot in the door to career advancement.

“I heard about the online biology program from someone who had already gone through the program,” he said. “They used it to become the department head and advanced their career in their high school.”

Reese has similar career aspirations, crediting his degrees for preparing him for new positions he wasn’t qualified for before. With encouragement and support from his family, Reese says the challenge of reaching the degree and starting a new career was all worth it.

“My parents didn’t go to college, so they were proud when I got my bachelor’s degree, and they were even more proud when I got my master’s degree,” he said.

But balancing family, work, and school wasn’t easy. Reese typically studied from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, after tucking his kids into bed. Late nights made for longer days, but the convenience of online coursework made his education possible.

“You could work a full-time job, still have a family and not feel like you’re depriving them. You still get to play with the kids,” he said.

Support from UNK faculty helped, too. The online Master of Science in Biology program assigns each student to a faculty mentor to guide them throughout their biology independent research. Reese’s mentor was Dr. Paul Twigg.

“He helped me set up the research method and [with] questions I had when I did my final research paper. He was always on campus helping students too, but he always made time for me,” Reese said. “[The faculty] always seemed happy to have me ask questions, and the next day they would post the questions and answer for others to see. I felt like I was able to get to know them.”

Reese’s field research in the program took him to Puerto Rico to research mangrove trees, lionfish, and land crabs. One of his biggest drives toward graduation was to learn and experience as much as he could to inspire his students about how exciting science can be.

“I have the ability to affect students every day,” he said. “The more knowledge I have, the more ability I have to talk to the students and get them interested. It’s nice when they ask me questions and right off the bat, I have the answers. Whether it’s high school students or college students, I just have a passion for the sciences.”

Follow your passion to the online Master of Science in Biology or the Transitional Certification Program program to get started on your next career path.

By: Alyssa Wyant

Category: eCampus

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