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York College Education graduate named Maryland’s STEM Educator of the Year

Dan Werbeck, Class of 2010, sits in his classroom.

When Daniel Werbeck was in ninth grade, his Earth Science teacher sparked his interest in science by making learning fun and engaging. Years later, he, too, learned to make science hands-on and meaningful while earning his Secondary Education Science degree in the classroom and student teaching at York College of Pennsylvania.

After graduating in 2010, he became a science teacher himself. Today, he’s a Science Content Specialist at North Bethesda Middle School in Maryland and helps teachers use different learning modalities and instructional practices to find success for all students and inspires them for future careers in science, technology, engineering and math — disciplines collectively known as STEM.

He differentiates his instruction for all learners to make learning content more accessible to different learning styles. “I bring in as many professionals in the science field as possible so that all students can see themselves in various fields that include physicians, research scientists, veterinarians, and engineers,” he says.

By creating opportunities for students to engage in STEM related activities, his hope is to inspire more girls and underrepresented students to pursue STEM-related careers.

Receiving recognition

Daniel’s special education minor from York College prepared him to teach science to students with a wide range of academic and emotional learning needs in an inclusive setting.

The hands-on, project-based learning approach to teaching science has made the impact on learning and achievement evident. For this reason, Dan was nominated by a parent for the Maryland Tech Council award.

“Last year, I taught two students who were non-diploma bound in the general education setting, and in collaboration with the special education department, extensively modified the course curriculum to meet their unique needs,” Daniel wrote as part of his application. This past May, the council named him the STEM Educator of the Year recipient.

Other initiatives

Daniel also runs a Science Olympiad Program, a school club that competes in tournaments throughout Maryland. Students compete in all areas of science, even designing and building robots and cars. These hands-on opportunities, Daniel believes, pique student interest.

“For cell biology, to learn about basic cell structure and plant growth, students grow basil seeds in cups hydroponically,” he says. “For genetics, students learn about different genetic disorders and how they are inherited, and connect this to a job, learning how a genetic counselor can impact families and lives.”

The sixth-grade curriculum concentrates on getting students outdoors. “We do a pond and stream study exploring the watershed, looking for pollution and natural resources that protect the environment and animals that live in the watershed,” he explains.

York College showed the way

The combination of education and science classes with hands-on experiences with inspiring professors at York College paved the way for this education leader now recognized statewide and was a finalist for The Washington Post Teacher of the Year.

“Dr. Brian Glandon inspired a love of teaching and learning, showing me how rewarding teaching can be,” Daniel remembers. “I also had a great hands-on learning opportunity student teaching at Spring Grove Middle School.”

York College also encouraged his interest in the chemistry and special education minors, which have proved pivotal in his success. “All the education and science professors were always willing to help and had an open door,” he recalls. “They did a great job inviting prominent guest speakers in the education field, to give us real-world advice.”

Daniel enthusiastically encourages students interested in his area to consider York College. He is now Vice President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and has been on the board since 2013.

“York College is a great place,” he says. “I made lifelong friends, and because of my time there, have an impactful career in education.”