A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Education is a Way of Life for CalTeach Director

March 29, 2016

Chelsea Arnold is program director for UC Merced's branch of the CalTeach Program.Chelsea Arnold has earned almost every academic degree that exists, and now she works to help students get at least one more for themselves.

As the program director for UC Merced’s branch of the CalTeach Program, also known as the Science and Math Initiative, Arnold guides an intercampus effort that allows students to earn their teaching certificates while getting their bachelor’s degrees at UC Merced.

CalTeach is a UC­-wide effort focused on encouraging UC students interested in science, math or engineering to consider teaching in K-12 schools as a career, which helps address the teaching shortage in California's elementary, middle and secondary schools.

The program at UC Merced recruits and prepares mathematics and science majors for teaching careers by providing special coursework and field experiences in K-12 schools in the Central Valley, as well as direct pathways to a teaching credential in California.

Arnold, who lives in Mariposa with her two children and her husband — who teaches agriculture at Mariposa County High School — is a teacher, too.

She earned her bachelor’s in biological sciences with a marine emphasis from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; her Master of Education in cross-cultural teaching; her single-subject teaching credential in biological sciences and geosciences from National University; her master’s in geosciences from Mississippi State University; and her Ph.D. in environmental systems from UC Merced.

She was working as a teacher at Mariposa County High School and decided “it was now or never” if she was going to get her doctoral degree.

“I applied and met my advisors and never looked back,” Arnold said.

She agreed to answer a few questions for Panorama:

What does your job entail?

As the CalTeach program director, I work on program logistics, assessment, budget and other administrative tasks, but I am also blessed with the ability to meet and advise students on a regular basis. We have an open-door policy and meet with students all day to talk about careers in education, help them figure out their pathways and what they need to do to be teachers once they graduate.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from your work life?

I am learning how to be a good mentor and advisor to my students. I love this part of my job as I get to help my students find their identity as an educator. We have our first two students graduating this May with their bachelor's degree and teaching credential and it has been a transforming experience to see them grow as educators over the past few years. I can't wait to see them graduate and start their careers as teachers. We have amazing students here at UC Merced and they make my job a pleasure.

What are some of your biggest work challenges and how do you address them?

So far my greatest challenges stem from the fact that UC Merced is still a relatively new campus and we don't have protocols for everything yet. It has been a struggle sometimes to figure out how to make something work on our campus, but I have never been a person to back down from a challenge, so I love that I get to be a part of building this university.

What did you want to be when you were young?

I stumbled across an old drawing of mine from kindergarten, where we were asked to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. My 5-year-old self wanted to be a deep-sea diver. Go figure ...

How would you want to be remembered by friends, family and colleagues?

I would want to be remembered as being a good mentor and friend, and above all, a brave and bold risk taker.