By MJ Tykoski, MEd
Alumna, College of Education
Science has always been a passion for me. I owe my early love of science to my father, who taught me a little bit about multiple scientific topics ranging from stars and planets to symbols on the periodic table of elements. As a child, I craved further knowledge and challenges in science, but through seventh grade my teachers either had little scientific knowledge or interest themselves, or they exhibited an attitude of amused tolerance towards my enthusiasm.
This situation changed when I met my eighth grade science teacher, Mrs. Christine Rhoades. Here was a woman who knew a lot about science. Also, all my previous science teachers had been men, and seeing this confident, science-minded female captured my attention. Mrs. Rhoades pounced on my love of science and challenged me above and beyond what any teacher had done before. She didn’t laugh at me and my enthusiasm, but instead she took my interest and every question seriously. By the end of my eighth grade year, I knew with certainty that I wanted to be a science teacher. I wanted someday to be to some young lady what Mrs. Rhoades had been to me – a role model to show that girls can excel in scientific fields.
I am proud to say I have stayed in contact with Christine Rhoades over the past 31 years. She was at my graduation and attended my wedding, and we visit her every time we vacation back to Michigan. When I’ve received teaching awards, she’s celebrated with me. I’ve gone to her with career-direction questions, and her advice proved valuable when I decided to pursue my master’s degree at Grand Canyon University. Even though Mrs. Rhoades earned her master’s in administration many years ago, she chose to stay in the classroom until her retirement. Her example showed me that I could study educational leadership but not have to pursue a career as a principal; it’s not a bad thing to keep good, experienced teachers in the classroom!
All of the inspiration, help and guidance that Christine Rhoades showed me over the years had a wonderful and positive impact on my life. When my husband and I had our baby girl in 2007, I called Mrs. Rhoades to tell her we named our baby after someone very special.
Our daughter’s name is Christine.
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More about MJ
MJ Tykoski is completing her 22nd year as a science teacher in Texas. Grand Canyon University provided the perfect opportunity for her to pursue her studies while staying in the classroom through their online master’s degree. Given her interest in staying in the classroom and helping other teachers, GCU’s educational leadership program was a perfect fit for her needs.
She was the Middle School Science Teacher of the Year for the Science Teachers’ Association of Texas in 2009, state finalist for the Presidential Excellence in Math and Science Teaching in 2011, winner of the Texas Medical Association Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2013 and recently won the 2017 American Geosciences Institute Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching. For the last 18 years, she has worked with education and public outreach for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and flew as part of the Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrometer (EXES) team in 2015.