SIUE implements science training program for teachers to meet IBHE standards

Through an Illinois state grant, SIUE provides training, networking, supplies and professional development to more than 100 science teachers.

Chemistry professor Sadegh Khazaeli instructs local science teachers at SIUE during workshops. Photo courtesy of Eric Voss

Chemistry professors Sadegh Khazaeli and Eric Voss co-direct the yearlong project, titled Students Learning Science through a Sustained Network of Teachers.  They received funds from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – Improving Teacher Quality State Grant Program.

According to Voss, the program, allocated through the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), trains high school and middle school science teachers to align their curriculum with the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by which “students are expected to learn.”

“Now there is big effort nationally to have teachers ready to teach in new ways and to implement these new science standards,” Voss said. “So it’s really a mandate from the state for us to include that as part of it.”

The program includes a team of SIUE faculty in biology, chemistry and physics who help teachers with content. Outside consultants, such as Stephen Oertle, assistant superintendent for the Roxana School District, will assist teachers with aligning their curriculum to the new standards. In addition, a team of educators from Illinois State University will serve as external reviewers of the program.

Weeklong workshops were held on campus during the summer in each of the subjects. During the school year, teachers return to the university to meet one evening a week over the course of two months.

Khazaeli initiated the program at SIUE roughly 30 years ago and said it has a “huge impact” on Southwestern Illinois schools, allowing teachers to be “well-trained.”

“We have changed the curriculum of schools based on what they learn here,” Khazaeli said.

According to Khazaeli, the grant continues to be funded because “we always have excellent evaluations” by teachers who are contacted by the IBHE.

Voss said a “real strength” of the program is the long-term networking and collaborations among teachers and professors.

“We have teachers that have come for many years and you establish a professional relationship with them and even friendships where they’ll pick up the phone and ask for expertise. And the teachers do that among themselves as well,” Voss said. “Maybe if you’re a teacher at a small rural school district [and] you don’t have many resources [you] call up your friend at a bigger district and get ideas and share resources.”

According to Khazaeli, new teachers, teachers from small schools, or those required to teach science without that particular background can draw support from “a very big group of science teachers and professors.”

“If they need any expertise in any kind of science they know the faculty [and] they have group meetings with each other,” Khazaeli said.

Terry Menz, science teacher at Edwardsville High School, has attended the workshops for eight years and said she appreciates the in-depth content taught by professors.

“It is beyond the level of what we teach but enriches what the students learn,” Menz said.

Menz added that the sessions help her keep up with educational trends and changing teaching standards.

“We get the best of the best in terms of lesson plans and ideas,” Menz said. “Each person brings to the table what works well in aligning your curriculum to standards.”

The grant funds equipment and supplies for labs which are given to schools, and through the program, teachers can earn stipends and receive graduate credits through the university.

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