#WeAreNMEA - Lauren Rader
5th/6th Grade Science Teacher
Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
My pathway to marine education…how did I get here? My earliest memories are of fishing and crabbing with my mom, and visiting the newly opened Mystic Aquarium when I was a toddler. When I was older, on a bet with my brother, I applied to a summer program at a marine education organization in my town. One day on the boat, and I was hooked for life – I could not believe all of these cool animals existed and I loved hearing stories about how they survived. Fast forward six years, I lived and breathed marine science, and headed off to college for a degree in marine biology. During college and after graduate school, I worked for the same organization as an educator until I received my teaching certification. I taught two years of high school science, but my heart always pulled me back to the water and teaching on a boat; so I returned to my roots.
For 15 years I lived my dream job, with some of the most amazing marine educators I know. It was during this time that I was first introduced to NMEA, by my close friend, mentor and director, Thaxter Tewksbury. I had been helping him organize the annual SENEME conference since I was a kid; and Thaxter’s nudging brought me to my first of many NMEA conferences – the last time GOMMEA hosted at UNH.
I taught tens of thousands of students the importance of Long Island Sound with hands-on experiences aboard our floating classroom. I developed new curricula and piloted new programs. Some of my proudest work centered around creating programs for underserved populations linked by estuaries; exploring diversity in communities, social and biological. It was during this time, that my roles began flourish. Thaxter continued to encourage, inspire, and support my professional growth as I became lead educator at work and a dedicated member of the NMEA Board of Directors. I proudly Co-Chaired the 2015 conference in Newport, RI.
In 2015, my dream job and the heartbeat of my professional life fell out from under me after a forced leadership change. One result was an immediate cessation of my NMEA and SENEME work. It was only when I returned this past year in Long Beach, that I realized how much being with NMEA fed my professional soul, and how much I relied on the subtle mentoring I have received from so many members.
Just a few of the many I have been fortunate to be touched by: Johnette Bosarge – who encouraged me to take my first leadership position as NSTA Liaison Chair, in her exquisite southern drawl “Y’all, I think you should do it Lauren.” Tami Lunsford – might be only person who can get me to dance the night away - sometimes on a table – and whose energy and enthusiasm I can only try to match. And especially Diana Payne – whom I have shared countless hours facilitating workshops, presenting at conferences, and dreaming big – “if money did not matter, what would we do?” This amazing group of passionate educators is a family like no other. The opportunities for networking, collaboration, and leadership development comes with a lifetime friendship and knowledge that we are all trying to “make known the world of water, both fresh and salt.”
Today, I have found my passion again. I share my love of the ocean with my 5th grade students, learning how human impacts on climate affect the organisms living in our global ocean. My heart has healed watching a new generation marvel at the beauty of our world and become their own passionate advocates for protecting what we all love.