Dr. Stephen Pruitt: The Highest Distinction is Service to Others

May 11, 2018 / by Kathy Renfrew

Teacher appreciation is something I think about a lot. When I was in the classroom full time, I so appreciated the notes from children and families -- especially when they arrived at times other than Teacher Appreciation Week. However, it’s really awesome to be recognized as a group with your colleagues, and for that reason I’m thankful for the special things that happen each year at the beginning of May.

As a #NGSS teacher, learner, and coach, I have so much for which I’m thankful. I write this post to give a shout out to those who have been instrumental in helping me to become a much better #NGSS advocate and guru. Through my own learning, I became a better listener and collaborator, and now I can pay it forward by working with other teachers. There's no educator who has had a greater impact on my #NGSS journey and my work than Dr. Stephen Pruitt.

Dr. Stephen Pruitt

Stephen Pruitt, who I like to call the “Father of NGSS,” was my first NGSS teacher. There are so many things I’ve learned from Stephen that they would be impossible to enumerate in full.

Dr Stephen Pruitt with students

  • Most notably, he taught me how important it is to believe in myself as a science educator.
  • Stephen helped me to understand the importance of the three dimensions of NGSS, and how weaving those strands into meaningful science teaching and learning makes a strong and beautiful rope. While each of the dimensions is important as part of the foundation of learning, sense-making doesn’t truly happen until each of the dimensions are interwoven.
  • Stephen also taught me how to “eliminate black boxes” as an adult learner, so I could use that learning in my work with teachers and children.

These are just three examples of the ways that Dr. Stephen Pruitt has impacted me and my work as an educator. I appreciate him tremendously and I find myself wondering, if Stephen had such a profound impact on my work, what impact has he had on educators across the country? I decided to ask a few colleagues for their thoughts in an effort to find out.

The Highest of Distinctions is Service to Others

Tom Jenkins

“Stephen Pruitt helped bring teaching topics versus understanding phenomena to the forefront of the conversation. This helped shift the cadence of the classroom from telling students to having students attempt to explain what's happening at a given point in time. This type of thoughtful questioning helps students understand how these phenomena could be applied to other areas of science, as compared to just one isolated instance.”

~ Tch Laureate & NGSS Squadster Tom Jenkins

Liza Rickey

“I first heard Stephen Pruitt talk at NSTA in 2017. It was incredibly inspiring to hear someone leading state work with a clear vision and a passion for all students' learning. Dr. Pruitt has been a strong student and teacher advocate, especially with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and best practices. He has helped me develop a clear mission and vision for NGSS work in my district.”

~ Tch NGSS Squadster Liza Rickey

Meg Richard

“Phenomenon is a hallmark of education -- regardless of the content area. To have a leader like Stephen Pruitt who understands how students wonder, learn, and grow is an inspiration!”

~ Tch Laureate & NGSS Squadster Meg Richard

Kyla Burns

“I'm impacted by Dr. Pruitt because of his leadership at Achieve in developing the NGSS -- I think it's a transformational way to approach standards since they involve more than just content.”

~ Tch NGSS Squadster, Kyla Burns

Many of you know that Dr. Pruitt -- until recently --  served as Commissioner of Education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Stephen was, is, and will always be a strong advocate of education. Stephen is an honorable man and I thought it especially important this year to thank him for the difference his work has made for both students and teachers, and for the influence he has had -- and will continue to have -- on me as an educator.

Topics: Professional Learning, Next Generation Science Standards, Science, Motivation

Kathy Renfrew

Written by Kathy Renfrew

Kathy Renfrew is the K-5 science coordinator for the Vermont AOE. She has been deeply involved with the development and implementation of the NGSS and is co-developer/presenter of NSTA: Teaching NGSS in K-5 webinars. Kathy earned National Board Certification in 1998 and won the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2000. She taught science for over 30 years. While in the classroom, Kathy won a Toyota Tapestry grant and built a 16×20 foot log cabin with her students outside her classroom window. Kathy’s passion is improving science opportunities and education for all K-5 Students.

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