As a professor in Montana’s oldest education program, Delena Norris-Tull is not satisfied with simply maintaining the school’s stellar reputation.
“We’re constantly striving to help students find a better way to teach,” she says.
In November 2010, Norris-Tull's efforts were recognized with the Montana Professor of the Year award by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Norris-Tull earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Texas; a master’s degree in environmental education and fisheries and wildlife management from Michigan State University; and her Ph.D. in science education from the University of Texas.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Norris-Tull worked as a naturalist and environmental interpreter at outdoor learning centers in state and national parks in Michigan and Texas. She eventually took her skills and knowledge back into the classroom at the University of Alaska and then in 2003 to the University of Montana Western where she specializes in science education.
Under Experience One, Norris-Tull says education faculty are better able to engage students in science inquiry. By testing students’ ideas through research, they are able to better understand what they will face as science teachers in their classrooms. She says Experience One facilitates that research.
“The block is very helpful,” she explains. “Many of our activities take more than an hour to complete, and we also take field trips to places like Yellowstone National Park. These kinds of activities would be hard to schedule without the block. Because of these opportunities, our students and their students are learning to do the things that scientists do. This encourages children to become interested in science by making it exciting.”
For Norris-Tull, the importance of instilling scientific curiosity and knowledge in all students cannot be overstated.
“If you help people understand what science is about, you’re helping them make better decisions to protect nature for future generations by allowing human endeavors and nature to coexist.”