Teaching the teachers
COLLEGE STATION —
Rural and small-town Texas teachers arrived on the Texas A&M University campus last week, ready to start back to school, all for the sake of their students.
Twenty-nine high school physics teachers participated in the second annual Rural Physics Teachers Resource Agents (PTRA) workshop June 7-11, facilitated by the Department of Physics. They are participating in the three-year program to become the best teachers possible in order to transfer their knowledge and excitement about physics to their students.
“These teachers are not only becoming better science teachers,” said Peggy Schweiger, lead presenter of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). “They are learning how to make their students better thinkers as well as to teach them how to be able use reasoning in solving their problems.”
|Peggy Schweiger, lead presenter of the American Association of Physics Teachers, discusses alternative programs to use while collecting and analyzing data.|
Some of the teachers are the entire science department for their schools, many not having been originally trained as physics teachers. The workshop helps them expand their confidence in the teaching role by demonstrating experiments to conduct in their classrooms, showing them different ways and subject matter to teach and allowing them to gain knowledge on new instruments being used in the classroom.
“There were approximately 70 applicants for this three-year program,” said Dr. Lewis Ford, associate head of the Department of Physics and Regional Coordinator for the event. “They were narrowed down to thirty in the first year, by reviewing their transcripts, looking at the courses they teach and the schools for which they work.”
This workshop is part of a national program that includes other sites throughout the country. While the one conducted on the Texas A&M campus is strictly for rural and small-town schools, other workshops are held for teachers in urban and inner city schools.
The teachers all earn three credit hours for the workshop toward a master’s of education degree. One of the sessions included instruction on grant writing, both for professional development and equipment for their classrooms. They will attend a follow-up session again in the spring, and Ford has established a list-serv which they can utilize to communicate with one another during the year.
Each participant is immersed in the university experience, by living in the dorms, having Aggie Bucks, etc. They are awarded a stipend and not charged for the workshop, which is underwritten by a grant from the National Science Foundation to the AAPT, gift money to the physics department and the waiver of fees and tuition from Texas A&M. The teachers attend morning, afternoon and evening sessions Monday through Thursday, with an ending session on Friday morning.
“I came to this workshop, because from previous experience, I know that I will be able to add to my ‘bag of tricks’ in teaching physics to my students,” said Teresa Musgrave from Tolar.
Tolar has approximately 175 students in the high school, with Musgrave teaching all the freshmen general science, plus additional classes of chemistry and physics. Until several years ago, she was the science department for grades 7-12 in the Tolar school system. Musgrave says she has seen an increase of interest in science from her students, which she credits being a direct result from her summer activities including this program.
|Teresa Musgrave of Tolar, Texas, looks on while her lab partner weighs the “rocket” they had built earlier before beginning to collect data.|
In addition to Schweiger, Physics Teaching Resource Agents who facilitated the sessions were Mark Kinsey and John Treadwell from Houston; Anne Sung from the Valley area in South Texas, and Bill Franklin from Waco. All are either current or retired physics teachers who are eager to share their experience with the participants.
Ford praised physics technical laboratory coordinator Tony Ramirez, who arranged the summer course schedule in order for the lab space to be utilized for the workshop, and Beverly Guster, program coordinator in the physics department, who handled all the logistics of putting the workshop together.
“I also can’t thank Dr. Ford enough for finding a way to accomplish everything I ask of him,” said Schweiger. “A&M, through Dr. Ford, meets all these teachers’ needs and answers all their questions.”
|John Treadwell, Physics Teaching Resource Agent, answers questions from participants using calculators and programs to analyze lab work. Each lab included high-, low- and no-tech versions of lab work to accommodate the various environments to which each teacher would return.|
|Bill Franklin, Physics Teaching Resource Agent, demonstrates the “Stomp Rocket” – a lesson in potential energy, which participants can “make-and-take” back to their districts’ classrooms.|
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