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Big Country teachers learn from ACU faculty

By Floyd Miller



This summer, Abilene Christian University was once again able to provide training to rural math and science teachers thanks to the Teacher Quality Grants. Middle school and high school teachers {{more}} from all over the Big Country were invited to learn new and creative ways of teaching.”The goal of the grants is to help teachers become highly effective,” said Dr. Kim Pamplin, chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department. “While improving their knowledge in their academic field and their pedagogical techniques is important, we believe that we can be most effective by providing learning activities that are also fun and interesting.”Since the program’s beginning in 1990, ACU has received more than $1.92 million in state and federal funding through at least 23 Teacher Quality Grants. With matching funds from ACU and participating school districts, the total funding is $3,761,740, said Dr. Tom Winter, associate provost for ACU. This year, ACU has received four Teacher Quality Grants, each in the amount of $87,000. The professors receiving funding include:• Dr. Phyllis Bolin, assistant professor of mathematics and Dr. David Hendricks, chair of the mathematics department, who received a grant dealing with teaching algebra I; • Dr. Connie Yarema, associate mathematics professor and Cheryl Schwiethale, mathematics instructor, who are funded for a project on teaching middle school mathematics; • Pamplin and Dr. Lloyd Goldsmith, associate professor in the graduate school of education, who received a grant dealing with teaching chemistry; and • Pamplin and Dr. Donnie Snider, associate professor of education, who are funded to instruct on teaching 8th grade science.”Many teachers find it difficult during the school year to spend time learning about new technologies and incorporating them into their classes,” Pamplin said. “One thing we try to do each year is spend some time presenting new learning technologies and provide time now for them to build lessons that they can use later during the school year.” Teachers from more than 50 schools have benefited from this program, which includes public, private and parochial schools in Abilene and the surrounding area. For teachers, the program provides a stipend, graduate credit and hundreds of dollars worth of educational technology. Every year, 60-80 percent of the teachers who are eligible reapply for the grant, according to Pamplin. “We believe these grants allow our faculty in these areas to partner more effectively with their public school colleagues, thus better preparing students in the region for the realities of the world they will enter,” said Winter. “Our faculty members develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the K-12 systems and their challenges, and the teachers in these programs better understand the expectations their students will encounter in post-secondary education and the workplace. These are truly ‘win-win’ opportunities.” Over the years, ACU faculty members involved in this program have discovered that it’s not just the educational tools and learning opportunities that keep rural teachers coming back to the summer workshops.”What we’ve found is that these grants provide an invaluable opportunity for professionally isolated teachers from rural districts to build relationships with peers who face the same challenges they do,” said Pamplin. “As these teachers work and learn together during the summer workshops, they become a community of learners who learn from each other. For the rest of the academic year, they share tips, questions, and concerns.”

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