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photo of Dan Kurtak taking notes in the field
Dan Kurtak
Science Teacher
Round Mountain High School
Round Mountain, Nevada

I grew up in a mining camp near Bishop, California. My father worked as a metallurgist at the Pine Creek Tungsten Mine, so that interested me in chemistry and geology. I was also a child of Sputnik. Interest in science was greatly encouraged after 1957! By high school, I was a science nerd , and proud of it! I went to the National Science Fair in 1964.

Along the way, I got interested in insects, and ended up with a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Medical Entomology-bugs that carry diseases. Practicing that discipline took me to Asia and Africa. I spent 9 years in Africa working for the World Health Organization fighting onchocerciasis.

Then, wanting to raise my family in the U.S. and get a change of pace, I bought a small farm in NE Washington State where I rasied beef cattle while doing scientific consulting. I started doing substitute teaching because there was a shortage of people to teach math and science, and found that I liked it.

After studying for a teaching certificate, I took a job in Round Mountain, Nevada teaching science. (The location was chosen partly to get closer to my dad, who still lives in Bishop.) I teach in the small high school which serves this mining community. Since it is small, I teach most of the science- Principles of Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. To provide another elective, I alternate yearly between Geology and Astronomy. The preparation is often grueling, especially as I try to do as much “hands on” as I can. Involvement with a big chunk of curriculum does allow me to maintain my interest in a wide variety of science, as well as math.

I spend my recreational time studying the natural history of the area, which nourishes my spririt while providing endless topics for science teaching.

Motto: “Nature is never Boring”

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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: January 2010