|New Institute Will Send Local Teachers to School with Davidson Professors
April 01, 2009
by Emily Matras '12
A new partnership among Davidson College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) gives professors an opportunity to connect with their community.
|At a recent information session, Ruth Beeston (foreground) and Ann Fox (background) spoke with CMS teachers about the courses they will offer through the Charlotte Teachers Institute.|
The Charlotte Teachers Institute (CTI) involves professors from Davidson and UNC Charlotte as teachers of professional development seminars for CMS teachers. About 75 teachers attended an information session recently to learn about the program and decide if they want to apply for one of the program’s first four offerings. Those begin in August, and include Davidson Associate Professor of English Ann Fox teaching “Exploring Depictions of Science in Theatre” and Professor of Chemistry Ruth Beeston teaching “A Scientific and Human Approach to Color.” UNC Charlotte historian Oscar Lansen will lead a seminar examining "Children in War and Conflict," and UNC Charlotte Professor of Mathematics Harold Reiter will lead a seminar in "Understanding Fundamental Ideas in Mathematics at a Deep Level."
CTI focuses on building a teacher’s knowledge base rather than addressing methods and pedagogy. The interdisciplinary seminars give CMS teachers the opportunity to study subjects that both interest them and relate to their classroom teaching. The seminar participants, referred to as CTI Fellows, will attend 13 once-a-week, two hour seminars taught by a college faculty member from August until November, and write a new curriculum unit for their students based on that experience. They will receive a $1,500 stipend for successfully completing the program. The program expects to increase the number of seminars offered in future semesters.
“While each CTI Fellow in a seminar will study the same topic, it’s up to them to individually to figure out how to implement in the classroom what they have learned,” explained Molly Shaw ’02, director of the CTI.
CTI is based on a model developed by Yale University more than 30 years ago. The district was recently able to send teachers and professors to New Haven, Conn., for two weeks to experience the Yale National Initiative model firsthand. Brian Coons, science teacher at Barringer Academic Center, attended a seminar at Yale titled “Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.”
“The high level of collegiality between the seminar leader and the fellows was very supportive and engaging,” said Coons. “The collegiality allowed us to blossom as fellows.”
Ann Fox said she’s looking forward to that aspect of her CTI teaching experience. “We’re so busy it’s hard to meet people, but this program allows us to form significant relationships,” said Fox. “It will give us a chance to become engaged with each other and with intellectual exploration. We can lead a life of the mind, exploring things together.”
“This is a different type of model,” she continued. “It’s not top-down. We’re all going to explore the topic together. It’s not going to be ‘I’m the college professor and you’re the student.’”
Shaw said the program’s success is based on collaboration at all levels. “I’m communicating with a public school system, a large research university, and a small liberal arts college,” she noted. “These three partners each have different strengths. Davidson professors will contribute a lot to this program in terms of their experience at small group teaching and discussion. They’re familiar with working closely with students and seminar teaching.”
Professor of German Burkhard Henke got involved in CTI as a way to create positive, personal change in Charlotte public schools. “My wife teaches middle school math in CMS, and I have two children attending CMS schools,” he said. “I believe in the value of public education, and I’m excited to be part of an effort to help strengthen it in our county. CTI holds great promise in that regard.”
Serving her community also appealed to Ann Fox. “Davidson is so much about service,” she said. “We usually think of it in terms of students, but I was asking ‘how can I serve?’ With this program, I can help make a difference in my own back yard.”
This seminar model is what excites Lead CTI Fellow Jeffrey Joyce, a social studies teacher at Northwest School of the Arts. He said, “At its core, the seminar process represents the best that this profession has to offer. It fosters meaningful conversations between people equally interested in subject content. It requires collegiality. And it gives teachers, who enjoy this sort of thing, an opportunity toward lifelong learning.”
Shaw said that Davidson, UNC Charlotte and CMS are contributing both personnel and financial resources for the program. She is seeking foundation and private support to expand the program to reach more of the school system’s 10,000 teachers.
To learn more about the program, visit www.charlotteteachers.org.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz