By: Maia Farris
It’s never too late to continue education. Julie Epton went back to school to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be in the healthcare field or teach”, she says.
After running her own neuromuscular therapy business for seven years, Julie Epton is now following another dream of hers – teaching science. Currently Julie Epton is pursuing a Master of Science in Education at Oregon State University’s College of Education.
About a year and a half ago, Epton moved to Oregon from Michigan and decided to pursue teaching. While living in Washington, D.C., Epton taught an array of sciences for two years in a public charter high school. It was this experience that made Epton want to earn her degree in the field where she always felt she belonged. She also felt that the STEM field “not only needs more women, but needs to support a diverse array of children to get more involved in science.” Epton believes that she can fulfill this role by establishing equitable, inclusive classrooms that encourage all children in the practice of science.
As a STEM educator, Epton shares that “a good STEM education teaches us how to think critically, question the world around us and how to be smarter consumers of information and more responsible citizens.”
The progressive style of teaching in the Master of Science in Education program, centered on inquiring-based learning and discourse-oriented pedagogy, incorporates Epton’s belief of providing an engaging learning environment and developing critical thinking in students.
Epton loves the program’s focus on Ambitious Science Teaching and social justice, as she is “learning to create culturally relevant, equitable curricula that facilitates students actively engaging in scientific practices and collaborating with peers to develop deeper conceptual understandings.” She laments that her own K-12 education lacked this style of teaching, noting how well it melds active learning with critical thinking and cooperation to create a stimulating educational environment.
The ten month MSEd program is “fast and intense”, but Epton finds it very rewarding thanks to caring, supportive instructors, the student teaching experience at multiple schools and the connections she has made with her cohort. Epton values the relationships made with her classmates and hopes to maintain a strong bond when everyone begins their first year of teaching. Epton has noticed that with this cohort structure, “[her] learning is greatly enhanced, and the work is exponentially more fun, when you have such a wonderful group [of people] around you.”