February 6, 2017 at 11:49 am

Teacher Based a Varied Career on Plant Biology Degree

Todd Bean

Todd Bean

By Heather Willard, PACE Writer

Todd Bean ’99, ’13M graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in Plant Biology-Applied Ecology. He also earned an M.Ed. from the Patton College of Education.

Now, 17 years later, he teaches in Athens County after a varied and interesting career, including politics and woodworking. Bean reflected on his time in the Environmental & Plant Biology Department in a recent interview.

What’s your current occupation?

I am a sixth-grade science and math teacher at West Elementary (in Athens).

What is your favorite part of your job?

Well, teaching science. I have had a lot of other jobs, but I thoroughly enjoy teaching. In all aspects of it. I’ve always had a passion for science.

The thing you’re most proud of in your job or career?

I think finding it. Like I said, I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve been self-employed. I’ve been a stay at home dad, and I was a mayor. I’ve had a lot of jobs, and I actually started out as a substitute teacher and just found that I really enjoy it. Actually finding my career choice has been, to this point, my greatest thrill. This job is really rewarding.

How did your experience as a Plant Biology major prepare you and shape your career path?

I had some really good professors, and I was a non-traditional student, so I had a different experience in the Plant Biology Department than maybe others did. But, they reawakened my enjoyment of science. I got to see the full spectrum of science when I was in the department. I got to see the lab work, and I got to see the theoretical part of it, and I got to put it all together. I hadn’t had that experience prior to that.

What’s your favorite memory of the department?

Dr. Brian McCarthy with Community Ecology. We would have to go out and do ecological maps. He would take us out into the woods and ask “OK, now where does this biome stop and this biome begin?” It was kind of a connection of statistics and biology and everything. You could find certain indicators, and there was something about that class that I just loved. And of course Trees and Shrubs with Dr. Phil Cantino, just because I still use that all the time. I have fond memories of that class.

What has your career path been like?

All over the place! I graduated from the Plant Biology Department in 2000, and I went into small-town politics. I became a stay-at-home dad, I started my own wood-working business and did that for 15 years. Then I became a substitute teacher and it eventually led me to this. It’s not been a straight trajectory, obviously, but I’ve taken aspects of every part of that and found that it really adds to my teaching. Of course, when I get to life-sciences in the spring I get to draw on the depth that I have from the plant biology department, which is I know rare in a lot of science teachers because it’s not their background. So, I feel lucky to have it.

What was the biggest challenge you had to conquer that helped shape your path?

When I came out of college, I started a family almost immediately. My wife was already working at that point, so I became a stay-at-home dad. That shaped the next decade of my life, because my two daughters were younger, so I stayed at home with them. I didn’t feel like I could go out and build a career and so forth, so I molded my career choices around the available time that I had. In fact, that’s how I ended up being a substitute teacher. My daughters were both in school at that point, so I had just gotten to the point where I could be away for the day but I could then be home at night. I guess they kind of shaped my path.

Why did you want to study plants? 

I actually was not in the Plant Biology Department when I started school. I was in school to be a science teacher, way back in ’95. I took John Mitchell’s introductory plant biology course, and it just fascinated me, so I changed my major to plant biology and never looked back after that point. It was weird because I just took that one class and I was taking all those standard freshman-level courses, but there was something about plant biology that really piqued my interest.

 What was your most important experience as a plant biology major?

I mean there were a lot of them, but that introductory course probably.

What was one mistake in college that you would warn against?

Fear. I think so much of the time you’re in college you are so directed towards the end goal, you fear exploring. If I hadn’t been exploring the opportunities that were available, I would never have ended up in the Plant Biology Department. If I had just taken the standard “these are the bare minimum classes you need to achieve your goal,” I never would have ended up where I ended up. The time you’re in college is an amazing time in your life and the opportunities are there. Not just academic, of course, but you can’t be afraid to explore them when they’re given. Because surprisingly, you will find that the time to do that will diminish.

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