“[My bosses] say, ‘You have your responsibilities. Make sure those are done, but then do whatever you want to do’,” he said. “So of course, me being me, I kept adding things to my job description.”
Five years ago, Washington was tutoring Geology at Lone Star College when his students were offered extra credit for visiting the Cullen Hall of Gems & Minerals at HMNS. He volunteered to spend his Saturdays giving free tours for his students and made an impression on museum staff in the process.
“The guy who interviewed me was like, ‘You look familiar.’ I told him I did a tour here last weekend for some students. So, they hired me on in front-line visitor services,” Washington said.
Washington could do it all and was quickly promoted into the concierge program before becoming one of the first of the museum’s full-time Discovery Tour Guides. He continued to do extra work that was technically someone else’s job, scheduling tours and handling requests, eventually earning a promotion to Concierge Lead.
But where Washington really found his calling was with training and teaching. It’s what he calls, “the best part of my job.”
Over the years, Washington has collected fossils, artifacts, and model animals and dinosaurs. Beginning in the fall of 2014, much of that collection made its way to the HMNS basement into a special training classroom Washington developed for the concierge program.
Since that time, the classroom has expanded from one room to three and has grown to cover more topics including geology, paleontology, and more. An entire counter is filled with colorful plastic dinosaur models, a long row of folding tables models the evolution of numerous animal species, and the walls are covered in dry-erase drawings of volcanoes, oceanic layers, and prehistoric reptile anatomy. It’s the end-result of years of hard work.
“I just kept bringing more and more stuff in and reorganizing. This is not in my job description; I’m only supposed to do tour scheduling, but I end up doing two Adult Education classes and now some home-school classes in the fall,” Washington said.
“Every once in a while, I feel sorry for whoever replaces me,” he added with a grin.
Washington has always wanted to be a science teacher, specifically at the university-level, but for now, his work at the museum allows him to explore the depths of a variety of subjects.
“I like learning about ancient history and earth science and biology and animals and I don’t want to commit to learning just one of those concepts forever. The museum facilitates that. I can learn everything I want and apply it,” Washington said.
The first step towards that goal is completing college and earning a bachelor’s degree, and Washington works hard to balance a full-time job with a full-time course load. Between working five days a week and a class schedule that begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 8:30 p.m. on his days off, it’s no wonder that he jokes, “I don’t sleep.”
Washington was always interested in dinosaurs and loved visiting the museum as a kid. He says he puts the museum on a pedestal, so much so that when he first applied, he remembered thinking, “I could never work at the museum. This is the Museum of Natural Science.”
Today, coming up on four years as an employee, Washington is thankful for the opportunities afforded him. He still can’t believe he works here.
“I look at what the Museum has given to me. I am talking to their guests about science. I am being sent out to give talks about fossils. I am doing Skype tours of this place, and I’m just a little kid from Houston,” Washington said. “It’s just really neat that they have entrusted me to do all of these things. It’s a real honor.”