The education and guidance of young children are two things which Stephen Bock, director of the Scout Island Outdoor Education Center and current lecturer at Fresno State, has always been passionate about. Even as a youth, he knew that he wanted to teach elementary-aged children, but at the time, such a career endeavor was frowned upon for individuals of his gender, as men did not typically obtain positions working in child-centered classroom settings. Bock’s journey in education was fraught with many difficulties and setbacks as he struggled to pursue the path he set out upon.
After graduating from high school, Fresno State was Bock’s first choice for a university. He had received a scholarship based on his family’s income, however, the summer before he was scheduled to enroll, his father got a raise, causing the scholarship to be withdrawn. Instead, he ended up attending Reedley College for two years, getting his General ED classes out of the way. Once he received his Associates degree, he returned to Fresno State with the intention of obtaining his teaching credentials and pursuing a degree in child education. After meeting with an advisor, however, he became heavily discouraged. The guidance counselor explained to him that it was a bad idea to become a teacher since he was a man and also because he would not be able to support a family on his income. At the time, teachers made roughly $6,000 to $6,500 a year, a figure that would have put him in the poverty line. His counselor also explained that he would also have to get a secondary credential which would require additional coursework.
Realizing his options were incredibly slim, Bock chose to instead pursue a degree in philosophy. During the time of his studies, Bock got married and soon found out his wife was pregnant. With a heavy heart, and only six units away from earning his degree, Bock dropped out of college and began working full time to support his growing family.
Eventually, salaries for teachers became sustainable and they began hiring men to fill elementary education positions. Bock came back to Fresno State after hearing about these changes and finished up the six units he had previously not taken. Once those were out of the way, he started pursuing coursework under a program called Option Four which allowed him to work during the day while taking classes at night. After obtaining his teaching credentials through this method, Bock began teaching for the Selma Unified School District. Along the way, he heard about a program called the Central Valley Science Project, which was an organization collecting teams of teachers from various schools to learn about environmental education. Bock signed up for this program in the fall of 1992, along with one of his other colleges, a choice which opened many doors in the world of academia. Through this program, he met Dr. Marshall, an individual who would make a lasting impact on him and help him attain his current wealth of knowledge. After finishing the program, Dr. Marshall invited Bock back to give a series of presentations over the next couple of years. Eventually, Bock became one of the leaders of the Central Valley Science project, working alongside Dr. Marshall for nearly 19 years. His experience with the cohort demonstrated what teaching was all about and helped to aid Bock in his profession, as well as, easing his eventual transition to Fresno State.
In 1996, Bock won the award of Fresno County Educator of the year, a massive accomplishment in such a short period of time. A year later, in 1997, he became recognized as California teacher of the year, a level of excellence that few people have ever achieved. Seeing these accomplishments, Jim Marshall decided that he wanted Bock to become involved in the professional development of other teachers since he provided such an intricate understanding of the theories of education. Bock soon found himself as an educator within the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State.
Bock reflects upon some of the valuable lessons he learned at Fresno State, both as a student and later, as a professor. One of the most vital realizations Bock encountered was valuing the diversity of his students and appreciating what each of their unique backgrounds had to offer. He learned that when you value diversity, you learn more about the world around you, and accumulate knowledge on topics you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. In the current classes Bock teaches at Fresno State, he engages closely with his students, creating a welcoming atmosphere that encourages them to share openly and be proud when talking about their different lifestyles and backgrounds.
As a result of Bock’s experiences with the Central Valley Science Project, and also thanks to his Masters in Science Education, he began to focus on educating students particularly in the field of environmental science. He was offered the opportunity to teach Science Method courses at Fresno State and eventually won 75 courses in the credential Program. Because of his successful teaching experience, Bock became the science coordinator for the County Office of Education, which gave him the opportunity to impact teachers throughout the county through professional development, and also with curriculum. This created a direct connection to his current position as the director of the Outdoor Education Center at Scout.
The Scout Island Outdoor Education Center houses a program called “Walking Where They Lived” that allows children to understand the lives of the Yokuts Indians who lived on Scout Island for hundreds of years before the settlers arrived. So far, Bock has helped to build a recreation village that has two different types of structures, as well as salmon drying racks and an acorn greenery. They are planning to build more in the future with participation from Table Mountain Casino. We encourage children to become engaged by facilitating what it was like for the Native Americans who lived out here long ago. We have a number of artifacts that we are able to share with them, such as the remnants from a type of basketball game they would play and the cuttings of many different types of medicinal plants which they would use to create balms. Bock also explains to the children about how the Yokuts didn’t like the heat any more than we do so they would go up to the mountains in the summertime, build different structures out of the materials available up there, and then, when the weather cooled down, they would come down from the mountains and gather the acorns from Scout Island, thus having a sustainable food supply for the following year. The facility also has access to some traditional songs that the Yokuts would have sung and also some musical instruments that they might have played, which helps to give the students a sense of how to interact with the environment and how their lives were actually not that different from ours.
Before Bock became the director of the Scout Island Outdoor Education Center, however, he was partnered with Jim Marshall on a project at Fresno State called the NASA program. The program was a partnership between the Kremen School of Education and Human Development and the NASA space corporation. The goal was to allow teachers to understand what NASA does by hosting demonstrations at Fresno State. NASA trainers and astronauts would come down and engage the teachers during a day-long study of some of the concepts they were learning about through space exploration. These were conducted multiple times during the year so that the teachers could see a variety of different perspectives on a number of different topics. During that time, Bock was also running an internship program in the Kremen School which was integrally tied to NASA. The interns themselves were travelling to Moffett Field and also to the Ames Research Center in the Bay area. Bock was also able to personally train for a simulated NASA mission, where he was the pilot of the space shuttle who navigated the crew successfully through the stages of the process.
Looking back fondly on his career, Bock is grateful for all that Fresno State has done to aid him in his path, particularly the guidance that the Kremen School offered during his time as a student. He encourages current students to take advantage of all that Kremen has to offer, including their numerous programs that help aid future educators. He describes Kremen as a candle that will light their way as long as they continue to put in the effort to pursue it. With the knowledge offered by the university, these students will be able to develop a strong foundation to catapult them into their respective career fields.
(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing student employed by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development .)