Student Spotlight: Putarut Suntharanund

Student Spotlight: Putarut Suntharanund

By Putarut Suntharanund

1. What makes you want to be a teacher?

I’ve always been curious about how the world works. My father was a mechanic and my mother was an educator; they were my first teachers and they continue to teach me everyday. As I got older, my interests in the sciences grew. My first memorable introduction to science was by Bill Nye the Science Guy. Bill was always able to get a point across with a laugh or some goofy antic - I was hooked. As an undergraduate student, I studied engineering and was fascinated by how all physical phenomena could be explained and explored. As a master’s student, I continued my research and deepened my understanding of scientific fundamentals and principles. The pursuit of knowledge motivated me and yet, I felt like there was a big disconnect. The science happening in upper academia and in laboratories felt exclusive. If young students - the next generation of innovative thinkers - can’t access those ideas and resources, what’s the point? To create a better world, I believe that the two most powerful things an individual can do is build connections and ask questions. In becoming a science educator, I want to connect with students and foster enriching relationships. I want to spark curiosity in others, empower them to ask questions, and help provide tools for how to find solutions. Science has taught me that everything is connected and it has become a goal of mine to share that message because I believe that we all need to be reminded of our connectedness to one another and the world around us. 
2. Why did you choose Northwestern University’s MSEd Program?

What drew me to this program was its social philosophy on teaching and learning. Why is education important? How can I become a better teacher for my students and a better citizen in this world? Because I was working at the time of application, the program’s schedule flexibility was also appealing to me. As a science teacher candidate, I wanted to learn more about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and NGSS was co-authored by Northwestern faculty. Additionally, Northwestern is connected to many communities that are important to me: the Chicagoland area, diverse student populations, effective teaching resources and support, a rigorous scientific community, and more. 
3. What advice or insight would you give to an incoming first year in the Northwestern MSEd Program?

If you’re able to, take a class outside of SESP. The university offers so many interesting courses! Having that student perspective can be exciting and humbling and is another dimension that can inform your own teaching practices, too. Also, get to know your peers in the cohort; they are good people and ever-supportive. 
4. Are you involved in any extracurricular activities outside of Northwestern?

Yes, I am involved in a few different communities. I have been an active member of the Thai community (in Chicagoland) my whole life. Our organization’s mission is to preserve and promote the Thai heritage through education and cultural performances ( I also participate in the vibrant American Roots music scene (Old-Time, bluegrass, folk) in Chicagoland and elsewhere. Additionally, I volunteer at local farms and currently reside in an intentional living cooperative. For work, I teach part-time in informal science ed. spaces and tutor individuals. 
5. What is the sense of community like in the MSEd program at Northwestern?

The camaraderie in our cohort is genuine and strong. We spend a lot of time together; collaborating on projects, working through difficult topics, having amazing conversations, sharing ideas, supporting one another, having fun in/out of school. The MSEd faculty and staff are lovely, too. They are incredibly friendly and help support us every step of the way. Make sure to stop by the Garrett house sometime and say hi! 
6. What are you most excited about for student teaching? The most nervous about?

I’m excited to be working more directly with students and practice the skills I’ve been learning about in my theory/practice classes. At the same time, I am nervous about finding a teaching style that works for me. However, I know that this will eventually come with experience. 
7. Tell us a little bit about your Master’s Project. What are you planning to research and/or what are you interested to learn more about and explore?

I am interested in learning more about how students talk about science and engage in science ideas. Is a student’s reluctance to participate because they can’t or they won’t? My Master’s Project will focus on what happens to scientific discourse in a high school physics classroom if metacognitive practices (e.g. reflective journaling) are introduced. By providing another space for student thinking, can more connections be made? 

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