Student Spotlight: Sonam Tobgye, ED.M. Science EducationBy mst • Nov 7th, 2011 • Category: Science Education
Sonam Tobgye grew up in two very distinct places. During the school year he would live in Kanglung, an institutional town in the eastern Bhutan; however, his summer and winter holidays were spent at his family’s village, Phosorong, which is under the Mongar district in eastern Bhutan. Growing up in these two environments taught him many lessons. Life in his village exposed him to hardships; nevertheless, he would engage in agricultural work and social gatherings and developed a love for village life. He dreaded how the people in the village faced so much suffering in their day-to-day lives. This inspired him to focus and succeed in his studies. Living in Kanglung, Sonam was drawn toward the academic culture that existed in a nearby college, Sherubtse, the one and only college in Bhutan at that time. His father was also an academic and he held the position of librarian at the college. He exposed Sonam to rich library stories, facts about the world, and pictures of pre-historic, among many other interesting things. This environment and his family allowed Sonam to have a love of life-long learning.
One experience that sticks out in Sonam’s memory is when he and his two brothers were strolling around the Sherubtse College campus and peeped through the windows of the biology lab. They saw the insect specimens, snakes, an underdeveloped human fetus, and a skeleton. This new world kept drawing them back and they would continually glance into the windows to see what was inside every time they visited the college. This was a point in Sonam’s life when he was intrigued by science and that deep interest continues to this day. He hopes to share his passion with as many people as possible. Sonam believes that visits to museums and labs can be life-changing events for students, as it was for him.
After secondary school, Sonam attended Samtse College of Education, under the royal University of Bhutan. At this type of college, he had the opportunity to study science and at the same time learned educational theories. He graduated with a Bachelors of Education degree with a focus in biology and chemistry. Sonam wanted to continue his education and there was a scholarship grant offered by the Royal Education Council of Bhutan that invited anyone interested in pursuing graduate studies to participate for a competitive interview – Sonam applied and was selected! But there were some difficulties in receiving the grant to come and learn at Teachers College. The grant was withheld for almost a year; yet, Sonam never lost hope of attending Teachers College. During this time, Dr. O. R. Anderson rekindled his hopes of studying at Teachers College. Finally his grant was approved and Dr. Anderson continued to help by preparing him for the transition to New York.
Currently, Sonam is Dr. Anderson’s graduate assistant and is working on a research project entitled, “A Comparative Analysis of Pre-service Teacher and Teacher Educator Perceptions of the Science Education Standards, Curriculum Implementation and Lesson Planning Based on a Multi-compartment Model of Teacher Education.” Sonam also works in the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities as a text editor. Along with all of these other responsibilities, Sonam has been teaching for the last four years. After graduating from Teachers College, he will fulfill his grant obligations and serve the Council as educational researcher and teacher educator for the future teacher college project that the Council is planning.
Sonam is married to his beautiful wife, Tashi Wangmo, who is also a science teacher at a lower secondary school in Bhutan. They have one three-year-old son. Becoming a parent has changed Sonam’s outlook towards his students. He has developed an accommodating character and has become less critical. Also included in their family are a cat and dog. Sonam’s love for animals was fostered while growing up with family pets. During whatever spare time Sonam can find, he enjoys watching movies and reading books with his family. Although Teachers College will miss him after he has graduated, Sonam is sure to be a huge asset for the science program in Bhutan.
By Diane Murray, Mathematics Education Student