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Erin Peters-Burton

Erin Peters-Burton

Donna R. and David E. Sterling Endowed Professor in Science Education | George Mason University | Class of 1990

When it came time to set out on an academic career of her own, Erin Peters-Burton borrowed a few pages from the greatest hits of her two favorite faculty members at Illinois.

“The two people who had a huge influence on me at U of I were Charlie Weller and Nick Burbules, both professors in my teacher education program,” says the 1990 physics grad, a George Mason professor and director of the Center for Social Equity through Science Education.

“What both of these men taught me laid the foundation for all of my research and teaching that I do today.

“Charlie taught me about paradigms and how people’s prior experiences influence the way they see the world – which is above and beyond what most teacher education programs provide. Now that I teach future teachers, I try to hold the standards that Charlie held for us at U of I.

“Nick taught me about the nature of knowledge and the nature of knowing – which was so heady at the time, but I knew it was important to understand. He would often remind us about the nature of knowing by asking if it was knowledge that a gorilla was in the hallway or is it only knowledge when we discover that the gorilla was there.

“His class was so memorable for me, I wanted him to have a fond memory as well, so the final minutes of the last class for the semester, I dressed up as a gorilla and came in. The conversations after class were hilarious.”