Teacher Quality Grants fund professional development for 12th consecutive year

Posted January 31, 2013

ACU has received a 12th consecutive year of funding through the Teacher Quality Grants Program. This year's grant, "Stalagmites and Stars: MS Science and HS Chemistry," serves middle school science teachers and high school chemistry teachers. The funding is designed to connect ACU educators with area teachers and to provide high quality intensive professional development through interactive meetings, instruction on new techniques and tools, technology training and field trips around the state.

Since 1989, ACU has received more than $3.5 million in Teacher Quality Grants. The money has funded 38 separate year-long projects; involved more than 30 ACU faculty from eight departments and three colleges; and served 126 teachers, 53 school districts and 86 public, private and charter schools.

The grant serves to connect Texas teachers with the knowledge and expertise of ACU instructors.

"It is hard to quantify the benefit of the interactions between the grant participants and the ACU instructors," says grant participant Gary Strickland, a physics and IPC teacher at Coleman High School in Coleman, Tex. "When we surround ourselves with professionals who are excited about their work, we become recharged as educators. We take renewed passion back into our work with students."

"In recent years, there has been a focus on advanced technology training in the classroom," says Dr. Kim Pamplin, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "We help teachers sharpen their technology skills and provide technology for their classrooms."

Training includes instruction on how to use iPads, Flip Video cameras, Prezi (an online presentation tool), Glogster (a digital poster board tool) and Edmodo (an online learning management system). Teachers also learn to edit, share and present digital photos, compile videos and create podcasts that enhance their instruction and make lessons come to life for students.

This instruction has enhanced the classroom experience for students and teachers across Texas. Strickland assigns reading or digital podcast-type lessons for students so they can learn outside the classroom, then helps them go over the material once they are back in the classroom.

"In the traditional classroom model, students may believe they understand a lesson during class, when in fact many of them get stuck on their homework with no one to help them," says Strickland. "In the flipped model, when a student gets stuck, the teacher is there for assistance."

The grants also allow teachers to engage in extended field trips each summer. Some of them visited McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis last summer to tour the large telescopes, talk with astronomers, view the stars, and learn about classroom activities related to astrochemistry. Middle school science teachers visited San Antonio for a tour of the Natural Bridge Caverns, Enchanted Rock, Aquarena Springs and behind the scenes at Sea World. The experience enhanced teachers' knowledge of geology and earth science. 

"Abilene is surrounded by small rural school districts whose science teachers are professionally isolated from other teachers," says Pamplin. "We have found that one of the most important aspects of these grants is the opportunity for these isolated rural science teachers to interact with other science teachers who face some of the same challenges they face daily. The teachers learn as much or more from each other as they do from us."

Teacher Quality Grants are provided by the federal Department of Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Grants take the form of 12 six-hour days of instruction during the summer, followed by monthly meetings during the school year. Teachers receive six hours of graduate credit, a stipend, professional development credit, and an all-expense paid trip to the state science teachers conference, the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST).

ACU project directors include Dr. Kim Pamplin, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Dr. Lloyd Goldsmith, associate professor for the Masters of Education in Leadership and Learning Program; Dr. Donnie Snider, graduate director and dean of the College of Education and Human Services; Dr. Eric Hardegree, professor for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Sandy King, administrative coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Learn more about Teacher Quality Grants

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