A Brief History of ASTA
The roots of the Arizona Science Teachers Association can be traced back to November of 1931. During these early years, the Arizona Education Association held annual conferences which included subject area meetings consisting of invited speakers. The science teachers met as an Allied Organization of the AEA. Although an annual chairman is listed, other historical documents indicate that Homer Turner was “considered the dean of Arizona science teachers” (Lorenzo Lisonbee *, private correspondence, 1991) and conducted most of the meetings. The 1931 AEA program lists H.L. Stahnke of Mesa Union High School as Chairman of AEA’s Science Department and Loyd C. Elliott of Phoenix Union High School speaking on, “Standard Tests as an Aid in the Teaching of Physics.” This meeting structure continued through the 1930’s, 1940’s, and early 1950’s.
During the 1954 annual AEA meeting, science educators formally organized into what is now the Arizona Science Teachers Association. Documents attribute considerable assistance in organizing to Dr. Alan Wager who was also ASTA’s first membership chairman. AEA newsletters cite John Hall as ASTA’s first elected president in 1953, but he was unable to serve out his term. Lorenzo Lisonbee assumed ASTA president responsibilities and conducted the 1954 organizational meeting and officers were elected. ASTA first executive committee included Lorenzo Lisonbee – President, Nick Gurr – President-elect, Dr. Alan T. Wager – State Membership Director, John O. Hall – Past-president, and H.H. Cofer – Secretary-treasurer.
During these organizational years, NSTA provided strong support and motivation. In 1952, Robert Carleton, NSTA Executive Secretary, made a brief visit to the Phoenix area and met with a group of science educators at Phoenix North High School. His visit focused on organizing science teachers in Arizona into a formal organization which would be affiliated with the national organization. NSTA’s support for the infant ASTA is documented in its first official newsletter dated March 1955 (Appendix F). Another ASTA document states that the organization will publish a newsletter “to inform science teachers throughout the state of activities and progress being made by the Association” (March, 1955). Also noted in this same document, “The National STA has contributed $50 to help the state association get started…” The membership fee indicated in this first official newsletter was $0.50 rebate that ASTA would receive when educators joined NSTA through ASTA’s Secretary-treasurer. Membership records for these beginning years are unavailable and there is no information on numbers of members. During its 48th year, ASTA membership is comprised of 105 Life/Honorary Life members and 991 Annual members. Forty-two percent of the membership is from the Phoenix metropolitan area, thirty percent from Tucson metropolitan area, and the remaining twenty-eight percent represent rural Arizona. Membership numbers fluctuate since conference registration includes the membership fee. ASTA membership numbers reflect school funds and substitute availability within existing economic conditions.
The 2001-2002 ASTA Executive Board gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Lorenzo Lisonbee from his private records in the development of the organization’s brief history.