Beyond innovation: Awards validate a Brandman approach to science education

January 09, 2017 by Brandman University
Dave Menshew, kneeling at center, with some of the many students who've been honored through his innovative high school programs.

Dave Menshew, kneeling at center, with some of the many students who’ve been honored through his innovative high school programs.

Dave Menshew was already known for his innovative zombie-incorporating approach to teaching science before he enrolled in Brandman University’s Doctorate of Education in organizational leadership program. But being part of the unique doctoral program, he says, has changed him in ways he could not have imagined when he first enrolled.

Menshew leads the forensic biotech program at James C. Enochs High School in Modesto, California, and teaches education courses at Brandman’s online as an adjunct faculty member.

“I originally did the doctorate on the suggestion of Dr. Carla Piper. I looked at it as strictly a way to add an additional skill set. What I didn’t expect was the incredible number of skills or skill sets. I feel like whatever gets thrown at me, I can do it,” said Menshew.

Some of the benefits he’s reaped from doctoral program include:

  • Literature review skills, which paid off when he spent the summer working in a biotech laboratory. “I would not have been able to do that without my Brandman experience.”
  • Continuing results from his Transformational Change Project (a cornerstone of the program required in a student’s second year). Menshew’s project centered on increasing engagement of Hispanic science learners, a project that dovetailed with his experience working as a volunteer in juvenile hall and later teaching at the junior high school level. The project led to bi-weekly meetings with a variety of leaders in the Hispanic community to consider different models for engaging the Hispanic population. The information and ideas he’s gathered will also be part of his dissertation, which he plans to finish and defend in time to graduate in May.
  • The expertise to deliver quality instruction to students. That includes public speaking (Menshew was an EdTalk presenter for the California Teachers Summit in July 2016 at the Modesto campus) and inspiring his students to think of themselves as science leaders.

Tangible results

Ed.D. student Dave Menshew's high school students hold Science Saturday programs to share their knowledge.

Ed.D. student Dave Menshew’s high school students hold Science Saturday programs to share their knowledge.

The results are tangible. Last summer, both the Modesto City Council and the Modesto City School Board in separate meetings honored 22 of the forensic biotech program’s students. The program’s reputation has spread to Great Britain, resulting in a visit from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust as part of an eight-school visit highlighting exemplary schools. In February, the program will be honored at the Bee Amplified event at the Gallo Center in Modesto thanks to the Stanislaus Foundation. Other honors are likely. It’s been nominated for a Gold Ribbon Award from the state.

For Menshew, all those honors give him a way to talk to potential students. It’s an even greater benefit to current students when he writes letters of recommendations for various college and internship programs.

“They (awards) validate the value of the program but are also a tangible benefit to the students. We can say, this is a student who has been honored,” said Menshew.

Ready to learn

Ready to learn

Menshew incorporates everything from zombies to teach his students about viruses to STEM (science, technology, engineer and math education) Barbie to reach out to younger students with the help of his high school students.

“When STEM Barbie came out, my wife and I bought 10 of them,” said Menshew. They put out the word that they would do an afterschool science hour with the high school students running the program and a Barbie as a reward. “We had all kinds of people bring their kids. It went on for about three weeks.”

Continuing innovation

Innovative projects and the creation of learning communities are an outgrowth of his Ed.D. program, which he said has become an integral part of his life. He’s happy to be able to pass along that knowledge to other Brandman students through the education courses he teaches, focusing on how to teach science and on 21st-century learning with an emphasis on cross-curricular programs.

“It’s fun to have Brandman students come to my (high school) classroom and see what I do. Then it makes sense to them,” he said. And with the help of his own continuing education he has more to show them every year.

More information about Brandman’s Doctor of Education program is available at information sessions.

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