Faculty spotlight: David Sloan puts the emphasis on connections
What do politicians and junior high school students have in common?
This isn’t the set up to a joke, although it certainly could be. It does speak to a major theme in Brandman Professor Dr. David Sloan’s life as a teacher, civic activist and college professor.
“I’ve found that if you deal with reality, the facts and numbers, you can bring people around,” said Sloan, who was among five associate professors elevated to full professor this spring at Brandman. The take-home lesson, he said, is always about building connections and relationships.
It makes sense that Sloan, whose introduction to being a teacher began with swimming lessons and summer camps, would have an abiding interest in parks and recreation. It was while describing his experiences working on a park district advisory board that he drew the analogy between junior high students and politicians.
Sloan taught junior high science in Long Beach, California, after earning his undergraduate degree in aquatic biology at UC Santa Barbara. He completed his master’s at Long Beach State and earned a doctorate in education from USC. He made the move to Northern California and the Sacramento area after the Northridge earthquake. “There was nothing left to move,” he said.
A conversation a few years later with Amelia Murray, the program manager for what was then Chapman University College’s Sacramento campus, led to work as an adjunct professor while still teaching biology in the Grant School District. Sloan was also appointed to the Sunrise Park District Advisory Board.
During the ‘90s recession, funding was shifted from park districts to schools. So every year they’re reminded that they’re the unwanted part of the budget,” said Sloan. That had set up an adversary relationship between schools and parks, particularly in the Sunset district which encompasses eight school districts, including some that crossed county lines.
“Park districts and school districts were forced to compete with each other. I wanted to fix that. We were all working with the same population,” said Sloan, referring to before- and after-school programs in the parks. Sloan helped to create partnerships between the park district and the school districts to create educational places for kids to be safe and active and then spend some time on homework.
The next step was a joint use facility, funded by both the park district and Roseville Union High School District for the fast-growing Antelope High School area. The problem? The park district is in Sacramento County where liberals out number conservatives by two to one. A good portion of the school district is in Placer County, including the city of Roseville, where conservatives outnumber liberals by the same margin. And that meant passing two bond measures while appealing to two different kinds of voters.
“It took seven years,” said Sloan. The key was getting past the rhetoric and being able to show that both the school district and the park district would benefit from a plan that was also efficient. The school uses it during the day with park programs in the evenings and summers. The complex includes an aquatics center, softball complex, tennis courts with stadium seating and a regional park that serves about 185,000 people.
In addition to shaping parks and recreation, Sloan has also shaped the way teachers are taught, particularly when it comes to science. Teaching, he said, is all about relationships.
“While we’re trying to teach the content, you can work on it so much more when you have that great relationship with students.” He has been delighted to see students he taught in junior high show up in his Brandman classes on their way to becoming teachers.
“Now is an absolutely perfect time to be going into teaching,” he said, thanks to better budget outlooks and more teachers retiring. In addition to teaching future teachers, Sloan is also helping establish statewide standards for science as Region 1 director of the California Science Teachers Association, particularly as to how the relate to the reading and math goals of Common Core.
For Sloan, that once again speaks to the need for connections, not just among students, teachers and administrators, but also among academic subjects.
“Earthquakes and volcanoes in science, Japan in social studies, haikus in language arts. It’s all connected.”University and other service
- Served two terms on the Faculty Personnel Committee
- One term on the Standards Committee
- Served as associate dean of the School of Education during transition to Brandman University
- San Juan Unified School District Superintendent’s Advisory Council
- CTC Science Content Expert for the CalTPA Subject Specific Pedagogy Task Development Panel
- Sloan was described by his colleague Dr. Joe Walsh as “the ultimate professional. He is also the most knowledgeable person I know in terms of police and has been a great resource for me at the Sacramento Valley campus.”
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