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College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

From the Field: Educator Impact

Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Hello Fellow CSBS Community! 

To help share my experience as a National Geographic (NG) Education Fellow, I'll be posting every two weeks or so about what I’m working on and how it supports Geo-Inquiry and K-12 educators. This week I’ll talk a little about my background and who I am. 

My name is Alex Oberle and I'm a geography professor at UNI and director of the Geographic Alliance of Iowa. My role at UNI focuses squarely on fostering student success. Through my classes and mentoring I strive to instill students with the critical thinking skills, self-efficacy, and knowledge and abilities to solve real-world issues, in their own communities, nationwide, and across the globe.

I want my students to walk away from class with the confidence that they have the ability and expertise to solve problems and have a positive impact. In the past year my students have drafted a climate action plan on behalf of a local community, identified specific steps for how campus student groups could support refugees, and employed a Nat Geo giant traveling map of our state to draw attention to hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity in our own backyard. I aspire to empower college graduates with the mindset that no problem is too big, too far away, too expensive, too entrenched, or too complicated to solve.

I am proud of all of our students who walk across that stage with their college diploma, but I am humbled and inspired to think about the career long impact that our graduating teacher education students will have. A soon-to-be teacher could directly impact 150 or more students per year over the course of a forty-year career. With the support of NGS funding and resources, I have mentored seven pre-service teachers in the past year and they could collectively teach as many as 42,000 future students about the world and how it works, empowering them to succeed and make it a better place.

I included this photo because it represents the collective impact of educators, pre-service and in-service teachers working together towards a common goal (in this case we had finished working together to share the NGS Giant Traveling Map of Iowa with UNI students and their families for a UNI Family Weekend open house). I am on the left. To the right of me is Alexandra Mens, an outstanding pre-service biology teacher who has a leadership role in developing giant traveling map lessons/activities and now brings her pre-service science expertise and perspective to Geo-Inquiry. To her right is Shantel Kahrs who greatly contributed to our NGS BioBlitz and is now an excellent first-year social studies teacher at Beckman Catholic HS in Dyersville, IA.  To her right is Tracy Elmer, a stellar veteran 3rd grade teacher whose leadership at his school (Weber ES) and in his district (Iowa City CSD) has truly advanced geography education and the NGS Giant Traveling Map program in our state.

Two weeks from today: a little more about my background and why it contributes to me being so excited about supporting the Geo-Inquiry Process.

Geography faculty and students