Teachers vet online resources for state
By Matthew Stewart (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nearly 80 K-12 teachers, including five Maryville educators, recently helped the Tennessee Department of Education vet online teaching materials for a teacher resource website.
Maryville High School teachers Steve Clark, Dr. Penny Ferguson and Eddie Mendence and John Sevier Elementary School teachers Nicole Keller and Kristy Vanderlip participated in the July 11-15 program, which was an extension of the East Tennessee Math Science Partnership.
Teachers, who were organized in grade-level and subject teams, examined online resources and determined whether they met state standards. They also filled out forms that described the source, tagged applicable standards and offered suggestions on how to use it.
Maryville College administered the grant, and the weeklong program was held on campus. Five faculty members also served as consultants, and they edited and ultimately approved each entry.
Educators reviewed more than 2,000 sites throughout the week, said project coordinator Richard Audet. Content will be posted to the Tennessee Curriculum Center website, which is currently under development.
Officials were pleased with the week’s outcome.
“They’ve exceeded our expectations,” said Linda Jordan, the state Department of Education’s K-12 science coordinator. “They found a lot of resources and then kept finding more and more.”
Some educators even worked more than their eight-hour shifts, she said.
“The integrity of our teachers really stood out to me. They really committed to this project for the greater good,” Audet said.
Officials also believe the model has many possibilities.
“It was a field test for building content this way. We had no experience with it. So, it was a test bed for the entire process and development of our product,” Audet said. “I think this model of developing PLCs (professional learning communities) as a means for teacher development has really taken hold. This has the potential to be a statewide PLC.”
State officials are preparing for the program’s second phase, which would allow teachers to submit entries from remote locations, Jordan said. They hope to allow the state’s teachers to submit resources by spring 2012.
Local educators were honored to participate in the program.
“This will be a very valuable site for Tennessee’s teachers,” Ferguson said.
“I think it will useful to many teachers, especially younger teachers who haven’t built up a lot of resources,” Clark said.
“This week has been an interesting experience for me. We’ve been able to collaborate with people from Maryville and across the state. Not to mention, we’ve been able to see how the standards connect with the common core. I hope we can alleviate some teacher fears across the state,” Mendence said.
Teachers also found materials that they’ll be able to use this school year. Keller and Vanderlip plan to use several resources, such as Into the Book and ReadWriteThink.
The program has also provided perspective, Vanderlip said.
Elementary teachers can sometimes feel isolated from their peers, because they’re so focused on their own classrooms and students, she said. “By engaging with so many people, it’s given us perspective and helped us realize that we’re not an island.”
“I’ve felt empowered, because we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. I really liked collaborating with college professors. They’re up on research and have perspectives that we don’t usually have in the classroom. It’s nice to talk about the philosophical, or theoretical, side of education,” Keller said.
Maryville College officials were honored to lend their expertise.
“They’re highly-motivated teachers, and their intensity has been something to watch,” said Dr. Terry Simpson, chair of the college’s Education Division and project director for the grant. “We’ve had trouble getting them to take breaks, because they want to help teachers.”
Officials tried to show their appreciation for each participant, he said. They served nice meals and even awarded 14 iPads to teachers.
“We wanted them to feel special. I really wish people could only see how hard they work to get quality resources for their students. I had no idea they’d be able to identify so many quality resources,” Simpson said.