(Originally published March 17, 2019)
Georgia Hodges, an assistant research scientist in the College of Education, has dedicated her career to improving the teaching and learning processes in STEM fields for all learners.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I have a long history with the University of Georgia, beginning with the completion of a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology in 1999, followed by a Master of Education degree in 2003 and a Ph.D. in 2010 in science education. Most of my responsibilities focus on supporting preservice teachers as they endeavor to become science teachers and collaborating with in-service teachers to improve teaching and learning in Georgia. I currently coordinate the licensure program for the science education department and teach a variety of courses in the science education secondary program.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
Similar to many of the applicants to our programs in science education, I did not begin college knowing that I wanted to teach science at the secondary level. Instead, I pursued a science degree because I loved learning about science! I worked in a lab setting for multiple years, and I thoroughly enjoyed the work. However, I continually thought about my impact on the world outside of the laboratory and eventually decided to transition into teaching high school science, where I could work with adolescents daily and hopefully invoke positive change. I began teaching high school biology and concurrently pursued licensure through the UGA M.Ed. program during the summer months and evenings. After years of teaching in our public schools, I returned to UGA to pursue my Ph.D. so that I could understand schools more deeply. Upon completion of my Ph.D., an opportunity to continue to support teaching and learning from the university side opened, and I have been serving in this capacity since graduation.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I have the unique opportunity in our department to teach our students throughout their licensure program. This means that I work with students as they learn how to teach, then I continue to support students during their internship semester when the students transition to working in schools all day with adolescents. By teaching students throughout their program, I have the opportunity to build relationships with them that last beyond the licensure process. Upon graduation, I often see our former students attending conferences or when I visit their schools.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Every day I get to think about how to improve teaching and learning in STEM fields for all learners. Knowing that my work contributes to opening access to science to learners in our state and beyond keeps me returning to work with a smile on my face. I have had the opportunity to share the STEM games and tools that our research and development team has created with local, national and international audiences. One of our games was recently awarded an international play award, which acknowledged the engaging learning environment we created.
How do you describe the scope and impact of your research or scholarship to people outside of your field?
When I am asked what I do, I tell people that I made the decision in my twenties to commit my professional life to educating all people through public education. Sometimes this commitment to education can been seen through me teaching a methods course to preservice teachers. Other times you’ll find me in the local high school judging a science fair, or every few months I’ll hop on a plane to share new ways of thinking about teaching and learning with colleagues living elsewhere. While everyday does not look the same in my job, my efforts always support striving for equitable access to STEM teaching and learning environments.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
It is my belief that if we as researchers are creating tools for classrooms or training preservice teachers to become teachers, then this work should happen in schools. Because I conduct almost all of my research in schools and I teach my courses in schools, the two are inextricably linked.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
As STEM teachers, we get to teach students about meaningful topics, ranging from personal health to the health of the environment. When students take courses with me, I hope that they recognize the deep, meaningful impact that powerful teaching can have on the lives of individual students, the climate of schools and the surrounding community by working with students and teachers in schools.
Describe your ideal student.
Ideal students are those who come to class ready to learn and willing to consider problems from multiple perspectives or positions.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus…
… is to join 90,000 other people in Sanford Stadium for a Saturday in Athens! I haven’t missed a home game in a while!
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
… stay connected with family and friends, spend long days at the lake during summer and travel.
Community/civic involvement includes…
I am involved in a local mentoring program for high school juniors and seniors as they approach decision-making related to graduating from high school. I also actively support families who foster children in our community.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
Outside of the books I read for work, my favorite book this year was “Apollo 8” by Jeffrey Kluger. The book tells the story of the historic first voyage to the moon, introduces the reader to the families of the astronauts and wows the reader with the problem solving and collaboration required to make the journey happen. This book brings science to life and allows the reader to see the scientist as a person, with a life. This is a book I plan to have preservice teachers read.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
One UGA experience I will always remember took place during the third year of my Ph.D. program. Our department teaches a class that focuses on international STEM education. During this class, students cooked dinner for the rest of the class, choosing dishes common to their country of origin, and we all shared stories of our experiences with the foods in our lives. As scholars from Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines and the U.S. shared stories from home, we all connected in a unique way as we enjoyed the stories that span countries and people.