Sam Stynen is currently enrolled in the NevadaTeach program. He is set to earn a dual degree in secondary education and biology, with a minor in mathematics, this winter 2023.
Growing up with a mother who is a science teacher, Stynen developed a passion for education early on. “I graduated from McQueen High School, where my favorite teacher would have to be my honors biology, AP biology and AP psychology teacher, my mom Kathy Stynen,” Sam Stynen said. Additionally, his high school math teacher's recommendation to explore education as a career left a lasting impact on him.
While initially drawn to mathematics, Stynen eventually shifted his focus to biology with a minor in mathematics. Reflecting on this decision, he advises aspiring students to choose a field of study that truly resonates with their interests, stating, "I felt more comfortable and engaged in biology courses. I would encourage students to ask themselves what they really want to study, not what they think would be cool studying."
Stynen knew he wanted to be part of the NevadaTeach program before starting at the University of Nevada, Reno. About a year before transferring from Truckee Meadows Community College, he met with Diana ElAlami with the Student Success Center in the College of Education & Human Development.
“The best part about the NevadaTeach program is all the support that it comes with,” Stynen emphasized. “The master teachers, fellow students and Colly and Meghan have always been positive and supportive through coursework and difficulties outside school.”
Stynen was recently recognized with the prestigious Westfall Scholar Award through the College of Science. This accolade honors graduating students with the highest cumulative GPAs in their respective departments each semester.
Reflecting on his academic journey, Stynen fondly remembers field courses and experiences that allowed him to break away from traditional lecture settings and reconnect with nature, making his biology major particularly special.
When asked about his favorite professors at the University, Stynen mentioned Matt Forister, foundation professor and Trevor J. McMinn, endowed research professor of biology; Jenny Ouyang, associate professor of biology; and Julie Allen, assistant professor of biology in the College of Science. In the College of Education & Human Development, Mandi Collins, NevadaTeach master teacher, teaching associate professor and director of the Raggio Center for Advancement in (STEM)2, left a lasting impression. “Over the semesters, she has really shown me how you can be a great teacher (staying positive and organized) and still be human (have fun, a family and make mistakes),” Stynen said.
Recently completing a student teaching practicum at Depoali Middle School, where he taught 8th-grade science, Stynen described the experience as wonderful. He found joy in witnessing students' "aha moments" as they connected different concepts.
Currently serving as the president of the NVTC STEM Club, Stynen emphasized the club's mission to foster a sense of community within NVTC through social and educational events.
“My advice for students of any age is to get involved (join a club, a lab, a community center, a conference, or a sport), don't get stuck on just one thing, and don't be afraid to ask for help,” Stynen said.
After graduation, he plans on attending graduate school for entomology conservation. “My goal is to conduct research and turn it into curriculum using a large, real dataset for middle and high school science courses,” Stynen said.