Twenty-eight math and science teachers from Horry County Schools have chosen to become students again to learn new content and to collaborate on fresh approaches to teaching, thanks to a three-year, renewable STEM education grant the district won in April.
Classes began Monday at the Scholars Academy on the Coastal Carolina University campus for eight math and 20 science teachers from the middle and high school levels. The teachers will train a total of 15 days by the end of the summer, with math teachers concentrating on statistics and science teachers on biology, specifically genetics and environment, said Heather Sheehan, the district's program and grant coordinator.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs are growing nationwide to increase American students' science and math achievement and to ensure their competitiveness in a global economy. The school district is launching a STEM program for ninth- through 12th-graders at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology in the fall, and this training - for teachers districtwide - will complement the efforts to boost STEM education across the board, Sheehan said.
Because the grant came late in the spring, Sheehan said this year's program was put together quickly, and some interested teachers already had their plans set for summer.
The program will expand significantly next summer, as she plans to have two groups in training with a total of 80 teachers, and the training can go toward recertification, which teachers are responsible for earning every seven years.
The STEM grant allows for CCU professors in math and science to provide the teachers instruction. While the teachers will be training their co-workers once school is back in session, the professors also will be able to visit the schools and participate in the classrooms.
"This is real knowledge, and it's really cool to be the student again," said Lindy Williams, an eighth-grade math teacher at Loris Middle School. "It's hard work, and we've had to stretch ourselves, but I've enjoyed it. It's such a challenge learning math again."
Sheehan said the program offers a big push on content, but that the teachers have seen where their students are having trouble, and the content is being driven by real student needs. Teachers already have begun developing lesson plans that they will use in the fall.
"The program is giving them a greater awareness and usage of the curriculum," said Sheehan, who said the teachers have been learning which standards are taught at each grade level, allowing them to learn how to build on each other's lessons rather than repeating subject matter as students progress each year.
"It also provides professional learning communities for the teachers," Sheehan said. "It's a way to share professional knowledge and gain information, but also camaraderie and support."
Elizabeth Moore, who just completed her first year teaching geometry at Carolina Forest High School, and Williams said they both appreciate the chance to work with teachers at different grade levels.
Moore is in her second career - she originally was ameteorologist who has worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - and said the program has opened her eyes to the different approaches teachers have to use at different grade levels, and it's given her ideas on how to support her students who are just entering high school.
As students move from middle to high school, "I've got to help them grow into learning not how to do skills, but in just doing them," she said, so that they put into practice skills such as studying, taking notes and sorting problems.
On the flip side, Williams said she wants to stop teaching procedurally and explain more concepts so that middle schoolers don't just learn a skill, but understand the why behind it.
Both teachers said the training is introducing excitement they are anxious to move into their classrooms.
"This is exactly why I wanted to be a teacher," Moore said.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.