Buffy Cushman-Patz


Buffy Cushman-Patz is an innovator in today’s K-12 STEM Education community.  After teaching for ten years, and graduating from Harvard’s distinguished Masters program in Educational Leadership, she headed back to Hawaii to develop a charter school focused on middle and high school STEM education within the context of project-based learning focused on issues of sustainability.


The School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability was granted a charter by the Hawaii Education Department earlier this year and is preparing to open on August 5, 2013.


Teaching Experiences:

The daughter of a 30-year veteran teacher, Cushman-Patz’s teaching career began as a Teaching Assistant in the Geology Department at the University of Hawaii teaching undergraduate geology lab courses. She found that her passion for teaching was even greater than her enjoyment of research science, so after finishing her Master’s, she looked for teaching jobs. Cushman-Patz’s has taught Algebra I at Kaimuki High school, third through twelfth grade science at a Hawaiian-based public charter school. She has also worked as an Assistant Scientist on a sailing school vessel with the Sea Education Association. In 2005 she began a five-year tenure at La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls as their Physics and Chemistry teacher, also teaching courses in seventh grade math, Algebra I, and Geology.

Buffy spent considerable time and energy helping students understand the connections between their learning in school and current scientific research as a classroom educator. In April and May 2010, she spent five weeks blogging as a Teacher at Sea from a geologic research cruise along the Galapagos Spreading Center using the Alvin submersible. During this ‘GRUVEE’ cruise (Galapagos Ridge Undersea Volcanic Eruptions Expedition), Cushman-Patz communicated with students at La Pietra and in classrooms around the country about the daily events on the scientific research vessel. She also initiated a ‘Call to the Deep’ with students at La Pietra while she was over a mile deep in the Alvin.

In the summers of 2008 and 2010, Buffy worked with a group of Hawaii-based math and science teachers to lead teacher-to-teacher workshops in South Africa with the Teachers Without Borders program.  During her tenure as an Einstein Fellow (in 2010-11) Buffy was responsible for creating a social media based outreach program for teachers to access information and resources available through NSF.  The National Science Foundation Learning 360 Facebook Page provides access to the myriad information available to teachers through NSF.

Buffy thrives on helping others learn to love math as much as she does, particularly those lacking self-confidence. As a Professional Educator she constantly seeks curricula and teaching methods that help make learning stick. Her classroom is dynamic and student-centered; she works to serve as the facilitator in a community of learners, helping guide their conversations towards consensus and consistency. Her first-hand experience with the scientific process guides her math teaching; and mathematical reasoning guides her science teaching.  Buffy is particularly passionate about helping girls gain the confidence to be leaders in math and science.



Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Florida

Master of Science in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Hawaii

Master of Education in School Leadership, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Honors and Recognitions:

2010-11  Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, National Science Foundation – Office of Legislative and Public Affairs

2010 NOAA Teacher At Sea


Presentations and Publications