Spotlight on Biology Writer Katie Rogstad

We are very pleased to have Katie Rogstad as part of a duo of writers producing the forthcoming General Biology textbook. In this blog post we want to present her as one of our newest writers and share some of her story.

Katie received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Cal Tech and her Master’s in Biochemistry from Loma Linda University. During both programs, Katie did research in labs that study the chemistry of DNA and its role in cancer, resulting in a co-authorship of seven peer-reviewed publications. She describes herself as a science nerd.

Katie’s path to writing a textbook was something of a miracle. Not only is she the mother of 5 preschool and school-age children, but she wrote her portion of the book while holding down a teaching job. That is amazing enough. The story is even better.

In 2014, Katie attended a homeschool conference where she sat in on a workshop presented by Denise Eide, creator of Logic of English curriculum. She was inspired by Denise’s passion for children’s literacy and wanted to get advice for starting her own company to do the same thing with science. It turned out that Denise lived just a few blocks from her and they met for coffee after the conference.

Denise asked if she had ever heard of Novare Science & Math. When Katie said she hasn’t, Denise told her not to start a company—”Novare is already doing what you’re talking about.” She lent her a copy of Introductory Physics. “I fell in love with it immediately – I think you can put it that way,” Katie says.

Separately, Denise learned that Novare was looking for a writer for a forthcoming biology text, and she told us about Katie. The connection was made. Novare contacted Katie to see if she would be interested. The prospect was electrifying, just what she has longed for. But with a newborn and a house full of kids she was homeschooling, she felt she had to say “no.” Realistically she just didn’t have the time. “Maybe after my youngest gets old enough for preschool, but for now.” Family had to come first.

Disappointed, Novare staff continued looking for a biology writer. Other candidates appeared and much time was lost with various candidates who ultimately could not deliver. The months passed while Novare worked on other projects and continued to seek biology writers.

In January of 2017, after three years and still no prospects, Novare remembered Katie’s comment: maybe after my youngest gets older. John gave her a call. Her situation now looked very different. Not only had they already decided to enroll their children in a local Christian school, but the school had offered her a teaching position. She had taught at that school ten years prior and now she was returning. The school even agreed to adopt Novare Science & Math curriculum for her to use! Everything seemed to fall into place.

The timing could not have been better: having discovered mastery-learning methods, she would now have a chance to teach using that methodology starting the coming school year. After a pledge of support from her scientist husband and a sense of the Lord’s confirmation, she swallowed hard and agreed. The task would take two to three years to complete.

That spring, anticipating kids going off to private school in the fall, she began working on the outline for General Biology. Then she attended the very first Summer Mastery Workshop in July 2017. As anyone who has attended will tell you, that was a major shot in the arm.

She quickly discovered that the intensity of focus necessary for the work required long stretches of uninterrupted time. Those were hard to come by. By Christmas, she was finishing up chapter 1, but she could see she was not keeping pace with the development schedule. She feared the project was too much to handle alone and she offered to step down. What she really needed was a colleague, another biologist with whom to collaborate and bounce ideas.

It was at that exact time that another biology scientist heard about the unique ideas and methods Novare was bringing to Christian education and was already in conversations with us about writing another course. Heather Ayala (whose story will be told in a future blog post) was that person. A university professor, she was an ideal candidate to join Katie as co-writer. After a period of introduction and interviewing, in February of 2018, Heather signed on and the two began the work together.

It cannot be overstated what a godsend this was to Katie; exactly what she needed. She went from a feeling of overwhelmedness to the support and synergy of having another highly-competent partner to help with the work.

Providentially, they discovered that Katie’s strong suit was the molecular biology and chemistry side, explored in the first half of the book. And Heather’s specialty was organismal biology, genetics and ecology, which is the focus of the second half of the book. They agreed to divide the project that way, providing constant critique and feedback to each other along the way. They collaborated for the next year and a half, coordinating with John who was taking their writing and formatting it with graphics into the master document.

The Beta Version was completed in June 2019 with much fanfare. General Biology was one of the most highly anticipated texts Novare has ever produced. Many were so eager to use it in the coming fall that they purchased the beta version—the version that has not undergone the rigorous process of expert review that all Novare books undergo.

The response so far has been beyond enthusiastic. Congratulations to Katie and Heather for their tremendous work in producing this very important resource for Christian educators and students.

The final edition of General Biology will be published in June 2020.

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