I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico where I went to school in the island's top public k-12 institution - the University High School. I did my undergraduate studies at SUNY Stony Brook where I majored in Biology and minored in Federated Learning Communities - Latin America, a nationally recognized interdisciplinary residential scholars program. My course work focused on marine ecology, evolution, the history and philosophy of science, and Latin-American studies. I also began to complete a second major in philosophy (but I took off for a 6 month backpacking trip to Europe in my senior year - and thus never completed it!). I was fortunate as an undergraduate to be able to be research assistant in the marine ecology and the insect ecology labs, and I was also a resident assistant in the student dorms for three years (I had to pay my way through college and graduate school!). In 1984 I was lucky and was awarded the University of California presidential fellowship to pursue graduate studies at University of California at Santa Barbara. My Ph.D. research project was on the ecology and behavior of two species of grassbed parrotfish in the San Blas Islands, Panama. In 1985, I was fortunate to be awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, to continue my work with parrotfish population dynamics. In 1987, I became assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras where I remained for two years (I left to teach high school biology, my first real love). Subsequently, I held teaching positions at Saint John's School (San Juan), where I developed the number one ranked high school science program on the island and led our science and biology teams to a record 4 years as state bowl champions; and at the Fieldston School (Ethical Culture Society).
In 1989 and 1990, the student body voted me 'Most Outstanding Teacher' and the faculty elected me to be their representative to the Headmaster's cabinet. I have taught secondary and college levels course in biology, environmental science, marine biology, zoology, educational psychology, philosophy of education. In 1992, I was awarded the Presidential State Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics. In 1993, I became research associate at Columbia University's Institute of Urban and Minority education, where I did public policy research in teacher training, science and math education, and educational reform efforts. I completed a Ph.D. in Science Education at Columbia University in 1998, specializing in cognition and learning in science. My thesis research characterized student and teacher misconceptions of biological evolution and experimentally tested the effectiveness of conceptual change teaching approaches in transforming student understanding. I also did a lot of research on student misconceptions in ecology and this encouraged me to found PROEA - an outdoor education school, my second real love in education.
For 12 years, I directed an intensive summer nature camp - Tropical Adventure, in the islands of Puerto Rico,Culebra and Mona. The camp explored 11 of the island's ecosystems including Rainforest, Dryforest, Coral reefs, Mangrove swamps and Karst forests. In 1996 I founded the Environmental Education Project of Puerto Rico (PROEA) an organization which impacted over 6000 students and 250 teachers in outdoor nature and biodiversity education. Under my leadership the organization obtained over $550,000 in grants, including a major startup grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In 1997 PROEA won the prestigious Manuel Medina Award for Excellence and Innovation in Education. I've given over 100 talks in a wide variety of subjects including Methods in Nature Education,Biofilia and Biofobia in Puertorican culture, Pseudoscientific Thinking: the Role of Religious Beliefs, Educational Implications of the Biodiversity crisis, The Teaching and Learning of Evolution, Student Misconceptions of Evolution, Student Misconception of Ecology, the Integration of Computers in Biology Education and Outdoor education methods. I've directed a dozen in-service teacher-training programs in areas such as Integration of Computers in Biology Education, EcoPsychology, Outdoor Nature Education, Evolution Education, and Marine Ecology. I was one of the founding members of thePuertorican Association of Environmental Educators and the Puertorican Skeptics Organization - Rational Alternative. I was a consultant to the Department of Education of Puerto Rico and from 1994-1996 I served as the community representative of the School Board of the Vega Alta School District, my hometown in Puerto Rico.
From 1998 to 2002 I was assistant professor of education at Hartwick College and served as Chair of the Department of Education, where I taught courses in educational psychology, philosophy and sociology of education, science education and assorted interdisciplinary seminars in education and biology. Under my stewardship the program expanded from 30 to over 350 students, added 11 new areas of certification, and obtained re-accreditation. For the 4 years in which I was chair of the Department of Education, 100% of my students passed the state certification exam, and the program was among the top 15 out of 117 teacher preparation programs in New York state.
Between 2002-2004, I was Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator at TASIS Dorado, a new pk-12 grade international school in Puerto Rico, associated with The American Schools in Switzerland and London. Among other things, I steered the school's Middle States certification, conceived and developed the middle school curriculum, and led the school's development efforts for two years, before Columbia University called me to start-up Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering, a new magnet STEM school for talented students from upper Manhattan, New York City. In 4 short years, the CSS-MSE school, which I founded together with Mr. Andrew Stillman and Mrs. Monica Marin, won Best New School in NYC award (2007), 3 Best Teachers of NYC (two Math, one English), and Best Public School Principal (2009). For 5 years, in addition to being CSS-MSE's founding principal, I taught courses (Methods of Teaching Evolution and Philosophy and Nature of Science for Educators) in the graduate Science Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Since 2011, I have been working as a school development, improvement and turnaround consultant in international, charter and public schools in places as diverse as Morocco, Tanzania, New York City, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I am currently working on a long term project to develop a chain of International Schools in Latin America (I.S.L.A.) to fill the gap for high quality, academically rigorous, college prep, secular schools in Latin American and Caribbean cities, that serve the region's rising middle class. The ISLA schools will be bilingual and multicultural and will serve as a mixing grounds for high, middle and low income students of high academic talent, that will be the future leaders of their countries. The curriculum will have with a strong emphasis in STEM and have a humanistic philosophical orientation. Classrooms will be world class, but learning will be active with an strong experiential, outdoor component. We plan to inaugurate our first school in 2014-2015 academic year.
I am also designing plans for putting my family's 80 acre farm in Puerto Rico to produce goat and cattle meat, as well as a mixture of fruits and coconuts.
During my free time I enjoy kayaking, hiking, camping, scuba diving, racquetball; listening to Latin-American Nueva Trova and Celtic music; reading history, political and military biographies, philosophy, and Latin-American fiction. During the summers and winters, I spend most of my time in my farm in the Karst hills of Puerto Rico, gardening and exploring the rainforest, mangrove swamps and coral reefs of Puerto Rico - and teaching my three children Gabriel (8 yrs old), Maiya (4 yrs old) and Ricardo (8 months) the wonders of nature. I am fortunate to be married to my partner in arms and fellow educator and school leader, Monica Marin, who is from Chile.
829-343-1859 Dominican Rep.