Gatepost Interview: Wardell Powell, Education Professor
By Caroline Gordon
What is your role at FSU?
At Framingham State, I am an assistant professor of education. I teach science, secondary methods, special needs, and educational technology. I teach elementary science methods and secondary science methods. I also supervise elementary and early childhood education students as well as teach STEM courses in our graduate education program.
What is your educational and professional background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in biology from the City University of New York, Herbert Lehman College. I also have a master’s of science degree in science education from Herbert Lehman College. I have a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction – teaching and learning in science – from the University of South Florida. I started teaching in the New York City public schools. I went to Florida and spent over 10 years at Pasco High School in Florida.
What made you want to teach at a university rather than a high school?
When I decided to pursue my doctorate, I was already teaching for eight years. I wanted to do a little bit more. I wanted more of a challenge. As a result, I enrolled in the Ph.D. program for science educators at the University of South Florida. I wanted to teach teachers. I wanted to give back based on my experience. I wanted to use what I learned in my doctoral work and experience teaching in the K-12 system to give back.
What do you like most about your job?
I like to teach. I like being able to meet with students to talk about how to teach science to their students with and without disabilities. I enjoy just being able to give back and teach students how to effectively teach science. Naturally, to get the opportunity at Framingham State to be able to teach teachers how to accommodate students with special needs is something that I really enjoy.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
It changed everything. I have been home teaching for over a year, so being able to do hands-on activities has been a challenge. You are not able to bring your gizmos to the classroom for students to play around with. So in that regard, it has been a challenge.
What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I like to cook! My background is Jamaican so I like to cook Jamaican food. In addition to that, soccer is my passion. I coached soccer while I was a high school teacher. Throughout that time, I won two district championships. I am an avid soccer fan.
What do you like most about working with students?
I like to see those lightbulbs go on, so to speak. Sometimes, when students start out perhaps not knowing how “x” works, then by the time you are finished teaching, they say, “I feel more confident” and “I know I can do this.” Teaching science at the elementary level, you often Ynd teacher candidates will say something about their experience in science not being good because they only read from books. At the end of their experience, they can say that they know how to teach science and how to allow and give students opportunities to explore and use the inquiry process of learning science.
What do you like best about FSU?
I like that it’s a small campus. You can get around easily. You get to know folks. My colleagues in the Education Department are wonderful, as well as colleagues outside of the department. I like the small atmosphere – you get to know people and people get to know you.
What are your proudest career accomplishments?
I would say my proudest accomplishment thus far has been a book that I recently edited,
“Socioscientific Issues-Based Instruction for Scientific Literacy Development.” As an early-career faculty member, being able to engage and do this type of work where you are able to showcase your passion, the study you have spent so much time in your Ph.D. program researching and writing about, to put together a book – that’s huge.
What has been your most memorable moment at FSU so far?
Just being able to be around others and hear them talk about how they are navigating and being able to continue teaching. Going to some events to hear about the research your colleagues are doing – those times are memorable for me.
What advice do you have for FSU students?
Never stop learning. Always put yourself in a position to be a lifelong learner. That is critical if we are going to solve the problems of the 21st century and beyond.