Tami Lunsford, Teacher and Marine Education Consultant
Tami Lunsford, Teacher at Newark Charter HS and Marine Education Consultant with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Education and the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center
Connect with Tami on Twitter @TamiTeach
What do you do?
Primarily, I teach high school biology, AP Biology, and marine science. But on the side, I go to aquariums a few times a year to teach teachers about how and why we explore the deep ocean. I also help oversee a marine technical internship program for college students to work on research ships. These students work with the tools and equipment to support marine research.
How did you become interested in teaching about marine science?
I first realized I loved the ocean and wanted to understand it more when we lived in Florida, and used to go exploring the streams and waterways. It made me realize how all my favorite memories of my early years were of the tide pools in New Jersey and Maine, sand crabs, and diving in the waves. That emotional connection made me really care about the natural world and the natural draw of the ocean- and it made me want to help others connect in the same way.
How did you get into science as a student?
My high school biology teacher really made me love science and want to explore it further. We created an “Environmental Club,” and got involved in some local pollution issues. That opened up the world to me, so I went to college and pursued it further. My path from there was not direct. As is the case with a lot of things, certain people had a huge impact on each step of my decision-making. A professor I adored, and worked with as his TA, had us read professional journal articles for one of his classes. I read a lot by one professor at a research institution, so then I applied to go to graduate school there. Once there, what I thought I wanted to do was not available, so i worked in another lab and that helped me on the next step of the journey.
Did anyone inspire you to get active in STEM or help you along the way?
Aside from that 10th grade biology teacher, my first math supporter was my dad. He always told me math was a puzzle, so we would sometimes do high level math for fun after dinner. I’d also have to say my mom is my biggest inspiration and supporter. She always took us outside and let us explore. Each step of my education and career, she routed me on and told me she knew I could do it.
How might one reach success and move up in your field?
Marine education is a broad field that doesn’t pay particularly well. But those in it really love it. The key is to meet people and get your name out there. Join professional associations like the National Marine Educators Association, go to meetings and conferences to network, and volunteer to get experience and get your name out there. Most of all- follow your passion. Life is too short to hate your job!
Do you have any “asks” for the reader? Things they should check out or think about?
If you love the ocean and want to work in or around it, or help others understand it better, research the jobs available. Go talk to people who work in the jobs you are considering. Volunteer at a local aquarium or lab, or with someone who works in a related field. It will help you figure out what they really do and if you truly want to pursue it- and it will help you make connections for future jobs!
I love my job and my colleagues and I can’t imagine doing anything else!