Southeast Missouri State University

Dr. Margaret Waterman

Department of Biology

Margaret Waterman’s love for education has taken her all around the world teaching faculty development workshops for teachers in the United States, Peru, India, South Africa and Singapore.

Margaret is a native of Rhode Island but has lived in Cape Girardeau longer than anywhere else. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology with two minors in history and education, from Framingham State College, a small college outside of Boston, Mass. She got her master’s degree in plant pathology and her science education from Cornell University in New York. She is now a biology professor at Southeast Missouri State University.

She teaches biology for education majors, techniques of teaching science and graduate courses in research methods and biology education. She is also interested in teaching methods called investigative case based learning, problem based learning and case studies.

Margaret also works with a professor from Beloit College, Dr. Ethel Stanley on biology curriculum and faculty development, which is another passion of hers. Together they have written many cases and contributed to case books, including one of the best-selling biology books. With the help of other collaborators, they were just granted a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to orchestrate an international network for those who write, research and use case studies.

“From a very young age, I knew I would be a teacher. It was never a question. I thought at first I would teach high school history, but then I discovered the fun of biology,” she says.

She decided to go to graduate school because she knew she wanted to teach college biology. While in graduate school, she became interested in teaching and the process of teaching.

“I got very interested in the questions of ‘how do we know what to teach?’ And ‘how do we best teach it?’ So these questions shaped the rest of my life. For the past 20 years, I have focused on developing case-based teaching methods for biology and writing new teaching materials using those methods,” she says.

In the beginning of her career, she taught biology at a liberal arts college, then at a large research university. After that, she began her career in administration and faculty development, but she missed being in the classroom.

“Those eight years away from the classroom were really hard for me – I missed students and teaching courses,” she says.

She moved to Cape Girardeau, Mo., with her husband because of his job. She immediately contacted the Department of Biology and was given a research faculty appointment for the first year. Later a spot opened up in the summer, and she was asked to join the department for a year. After a national search, Margaret was offered a full time position.

“It turns out the biology department is a great department! People like each other, socialize together some and work hard. I’ve worked at a lot of colleges, and Southeast is the healthiest I have been at, so it has been a pleasure to be here,” she explains.

She describes her teaching style as student-learning centered.

“I really like student participation and ask a lot of questions, pose problems and try to help people make connections between what they are learning here in school and how they will use it in their real life,” she says.

She has this advice for students:

“Follow your heart in your studies and be open to experiencing new things; it may not pay off immediately, but you will be richer for doing what you love.”

In her spare time, Margaret enjoys traveling. She recently visited Singapore to work with high school and middle school teachers. She enjoys seeing the differences in how people interact with each other, what they eat and other differences amongst cultures. In the future, she’ll be visiting South Africa and China.