Middle Georgia teachers get chance to learn, prep for upcoming year

WARNER ROBINS -- Classrooms at Northside High School were in use last week, but instead of students, teachers filled the desks.

More than 100 teachers gathered for training provided through a grant from the National Math and Science Initiative, which included classes for math, biology, science and English. The Laying the Foundation program is intended to prepare teachers of all levels to get students ready for Advanced Placement type courses.

“It’s training where they feel engaged,” said Jan Jacobsen, Houston County’s director of gifted education. “It’s fun because they love their field already, and they’re learning more about it.”

Much of the learning, particularly in the science and math classes, was in the form of hands-on activities. For one math class, educators used ramps and marbles to illustrate angles. In a science class, teachers-turned-students dissected corn and lima beans to explore the different seed types.

In addition to increased engagement in the lessons, participating in activities will better prepare the teachers for effectively using those lessons in their own classrooms.

“You’re more proactive, so you know what questions (students are) going to ask,” said Patti Moul, who came from Florida to teach one of the biology classes.

Moul added that the lessons, like the one she taught using soap bubbles to illustrate cell membranes, could be tailored to different capability levels.

“What I like about it is that the teachers here are from low-level learners to high-level learners,” she said.

Fellow instructor Lynn Rogers of Texas said that giving teachers the opportunity to learn new hands-on lessons to take into the field is “what all this learning is about” at the training.

“I firmly believe that if I can give teachers great ideas, they’ll take it back to the classroom,” she said.

Teachers attending the classes saw other benefits. They enjoyed the chance to use the new experiments, but they didn’t just get ideas from the instructors at the front of the room.

“It’s great to talk to other teachers to see what they’re doing in their classrooms,” said Northside biology teacher Christy Johnson.

She was joined by educators from Houston and Bibb counties, as well as colleagues from Hinesville, Colquitt County and other areas of Georgia.

Additionally, instructors came from as far away as Indiana and Texas.

“Our instructors come from across the nation,” Jacobsen said. “So they’re experts in their field. ... To a great depth, they know about the importance of engagement, and they know how to share that with teachers and prepare those teachers so that those teachers can go back to their classrooms, share with their students and share with other teachers in their county and in their schools.”

In Houston County, Jacobsen is hopeful the training, coupled with training for AP teachers in Dallas this week, will enrich the careers of the county’s educators. She said it’s the type of learning that people want to lead when they become teachers.

“We want to fill our teachers to capacity and we want to empower our teachers because teaching is a tough job,” Jacobsen said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@ASJTimm.