Derek Brower

Educating Educators


A member of Northwestern’s education faculty since 2006 and current department co-chair, Dr. Derek Brower ’89 has a passion for education. He graduated from NWC with a degree in philosophy, then went on to earn a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate in science education, technology and curriculum. He says that’s because he’s a lifelong learner—but also because he thought science teachers had the best collection of toys.

Prior to joining Northwestern’s faculty, you spent time teaching in Southeast Asia at missionary schools, on military bases, and with the Peace Corps. What was that experience like?
Living overseas changed me. It opened my eyes to a world of people trying to raise families and live out their faith regardless of political borders. I gained a deeper understanding of my life and my faith. I realized being born in America gave me privileges I hadn’t earned.

Teaching overseas is similar everywhere—a classroom is a classroom. In Botswana, sometimes a cow or a goat or a snake was outside my classroom. An island in the Pacific had snorkeling and palm trees outside. Thailand had cement walls and a guarded gate. Inside my classroom, I wrote on a chalkboard or whiteboard and shared my curiosity and love of science with my students.

What makes a good high school science teacher?
Someone who invites students to be curious, to share a sense of wonder, to explore. Science teachers need to be less concerned with their performance and more concerned with student learning. We need to determine where our students struggle and find ways to help them understand, all the while celebrating our fascination with this wonderfully complex world.

What do you love most about science?
I really just love to learn. That’s why I enjoy teaching—it forces me to keep learning. Science seems limitless, both in understanding the world and in finding effective ways to share it with others.

You coordinate international student teaching experiences. What would you say is the biggest advantage students receive from teaching in cross-cultural environments?
There’s value in seeing and experiencing a bigger world. It makes students realize that people in other countries are just as worthy of God’s favor as we are. And it’s good to experience being a minority. My hope is that teaching overseas takes away some fears and opens the door to what God may be calling them to be and do. It’s hard to depend on a loving and faithful God if we only stay in familiar and safe places. It’s also reassuring to know there are brothers and sisters who will step up and care for our students across the globe because of our unity in Christ.

What are some of your hobbies?
My constant hobby has always been running. Most days I run 3 to 5 miles. I try run a race about once a year. I also always have a house project underway—either fixing or renovating something.

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