Geoscience Educator, Dr. Sian Proctor @psyan: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Dr. Sian Proctor at Arches National Park

NAME: Dr. Sian Proctor

CURRENT TITLE: Geoscience Faculty

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Geologic disasters and the environment, curriculum and instruction, and science communication.

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: For the past 17 years, I have been teaching geology at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona

EDUCATION: I have a B.S. in Environmental Science, an M.S. in Geology, and a Ph.D. in Science Education. Both my master and doctoral research involved the use of technology to understand how individuals learn.



What’s your job like?

I am the only full-time geoscience instructor at my college.  It is my responsibility to develop and manage the geoscience department. I teach classes such as physical geology, historical geology, geologic disasters, introduction to planetary science, sustainable cities, and sustainable world. I make sure my adjunct faculty have the resources they need to be successful instructors. I am also the college’s faculty developer, sustainability coordinator, and serve on committees both on campus and within our district.

What’s a typical day like?

My day usually begins with checking my email to see if my students need anything. I have been teaching fully online for the past few years, and although I miss being in the classroom, I love the challenge of creating good online curriculum. I spend a portion of my day grading assignments which can be boring, but I also get to work on developing fun and engaging activities for my students. I have adjunct faculty who teach face-to-face classes, and it is important that I check in with them to make sure everything is running smoothly and that they have everything they need.

I spend a portion of my day working in our Center for Teaching and Learning. As the faculty developer, it is my job to provide professional growth opportunities for our faculty. This year, I am working on building the community on campus by running events that allow faculty and staff to interact in more personal/meaningful ways. I also host Lunch and Learn discussions for faculty that cover a wide variety of topics such as creativity, assessment, engagement, and gamification.

I am the sustainability coordinator for my campus. This requires me to work with our administration, faculty, and facilities staff on projects that help our campus become more sustainable over time. I am currently working on a grant to assess our student’s resiliency to heat-related incidences. Phoenix gets really hot during the summer. It is important that our campus and surrounding community have an emergency plan for when hazards occur.

I work with students in a variety of ways. I am the STEMS Club (Science+Technology+Engineering+Mathematics=Sustainability) advisor. This year, we are working on creating an interactive outdoor learning environment called the GeoWall Botanical Garden. I help the students complete STEM-related design projects to be used or displayed in the garden.

What’s fun?

One of the best parts about my job is all the professional growth activities I get to do. I only teach 9-months of the year, so every summer I get to travel and participate in unique learning experiences. I have done faculty exchanges to Australia, China, and the Netherlands. I have done research projects on Easter Island. I was a PolarTREC teacher in Barrow, Alaska, an astronomy ambassador to Chile, and a NOAA Teacher at Sea in Kodiak, Alaska. I’ve even lived in a Mars simulation on the big island of Hawaii. I have been on a Discovery Channel reality TV show called The Colony, a PBS show called Genius by Stephen Hawking, and I am currently in a Science Channel show called Strange Evidence. But what I love the most is speaking at schools across the country and inspiring students to explore our world.


Dr. Sian Proctor in Mars Simulation

What’s challenging?

The most challenging part of my job is managing an entire department by myself. There are so many facets to my job that it sometimes becomes overwhelming. I don’t like having to deal with all the emails, meetings and, of course, grading. Finding balance between the parts that you love to do and the tasks you wish you didn’t have to do is all part of the job.

What’s your advice to students?

My advice is to take advantage of all the opportunities you have as a student. Apply for internships, work with your professors on projects, and/or volunteer your time to learn new skills and get experience. Push beyond your comfort zone and have fun exploring our world and beyond!


Dr. Sian Proctor with pollock.

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