Amanda L. (Glaze) Townley is joining the National Center for Science Education as its new executive director starting December 4, 2023. She will replace Ann Reid, who has been leading the organization since 2014.
As an associate professor of middle grades and secondary science education at Georgia Southern University, Townley specialized in science teacher education, evolution education research, and science-literacy-focused public outreach. Her research centered on the intersections of science and society, specifically the acceptance and rejection of evolution and climate change, misconceptions and misuse of the nature of science in anti-science movements, and the impact of perceived conflicts between scientific understandings and culture on science literacy. She received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Alabama.
“I am thrilled to welcome Amanda Townley as the new Executive Director of NCSE,” Kenneth R. Miller, President of NCSE’s Board of Directors, said. “A longtime champion of effective and accurate science education, she will bring her experience and passion to the work of NCSE as she spearheads our efforts to support and defend science education in today’s challenging environment.”
A recipient of the 2018 Evolution Education Award and the 2020 Biology Education Research Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers, Townley served as an expert panelist for NPR's Science Friday's education focus #TeachTheE and works with organizations such as the Smithsonian Human Origins Program and the National Geographic-funded Umsuka project at the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa. Her research can be found in scholarly journals such as Nature Ecology & Evolution, Science Education, and The American Biology Teacher, and has received press attention in venues such as Vox, NPR's Science Friday, and Scientific American. She is president-elect of the National Association of Biology Teachers.
“NCSE has long been a trusted companion on my journey as a science educator and advocate, as it has for countless teachers and students nationwide over its 41-year history,” Townley said. “It is both humbling and an honor to have the opportunity to serve this organization and the community of science education supporters who make its mission possible. I look forward to helping NCSE advance its mission of promoting and defending accurate and effective science education, since I wholeheartedly agree that everyone deserves to engage with the evidence.”
Townley speaks often of her upbringing and its impact on her work: Having been reared in a Southern Baptist ministry family, she brings to her research and outreach first-hand experience of the challenges involved when there is a divergence between scientific understanding and personal beliefs.
Townley takes the helm of NCSE at a time when the organization has ramped up its direct work with science teachers, supporting them to help students overcome common misconceptions about climate change, evolution, and the nature of science. In addition, she will oversee the organization’s efforts to conduct and publish relevant research on how climate change and evolution are covered in the classroom, and to monitor and counter threats to the accurate and honest teaching of those topics.
“Amanda Townley is the right person at the right time for NCSE,” said Ann Reid, NCSE’s current executive director. ”The organization is rapidly expanding its capacity to reach the teachers who need our help to teach climate change and evolution accurately and effectively. Her expertise about K-12 teaching, as well as her lifelong passion for evolutionary biology and her recent research in climate science, will take these efforts to new heights, ensuring that thousands of students receive the science education they deserve."