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Award-Winning DC Science and Math Teachers Are Alumni of AAAS-Sponsored Professional Programs
[Photo courtesy of Marlo Thigpen]
Two AAAS programs that encourage District of Columbia math and science teachers to pursue a Master's degree have already produced a cadre of professionals who have had a transformative effect in their classrooms and beyond.
Among the first alumni of DC FAME I (DC Fellows for the Advancement of Mathematics Education) and DC ACTS (DC Advancing Competencies in Technology and Science) are teachers who have won prestigious local and national awards, participants in international conferences, consultants for national curricula discussions, and authors of scholarly journal articles.
The two programs offer District of Columbia middle school teachers the opportunity to earn a Master of Professional Studies degree from The George Washington University. The rigorous, three-year degrees, which are free to successful applicants, are funded by a grant from the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education to the university's College of Professional Studies. The DC ACTS program has graduated 29 teachers, while DC FAME I program counted 25 graduates in 2008. The programs are administered by AAAS Education and Human Resources.
The D.C. Office of the State Superintendent has said it would continue funding for the DC ACTS II and DC FAME II programs, although the exact amount of grant money has not been determined.
The programs' first participants have made significant contributions to the educational community. DC ACTS teachers are immersed in the hard work of revamping curricula, analyzing textbooks used in their classroom, and using their training in specific science disciplines such as physics and geology to bring their students' skills up to grade level.
DC FAME participants are using the deep understanding of mathematics gained in their program as they take on leadership roles within their schools and beyond, using content coaching skills to work with their fellow teachers, participating in national and international mathematics conferences, and continuing their analysis of middle-school math problems with a network of professional peers.
The ACTS graduates "have become agents of change in their schools, in the District, and nationally, and share a commitment to improving science and technology literacy," said Joan Abdallah, director of DC ACTS.
"I gained further knowledge through the FAME program, and then in turn I passed that knowledge on to my students," said Marlo Thigpen, a math teacher at Shaw Middle School at Garnett-Patterson Campus. "I try to expose students to everything possible so that they can succeed. As I gain more, I give them more."
Thigpen received the 2009 Benjamin Banneker Association award for middle-school mathematics teaching, a prize given for educators who make significant efforts in closing the achievement gap in math for African-American students.
Her fellow DC FAME I teacher, Kathy Procope, recently named principal of Maya Angelou Public Charter School's Shaw Campus, was a winner of the 2009 Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Awards. The prestigious prize, sponsored by The Washington Post Educational Foundation, is awarded annually to teachers in each of the District's public and public charter schools, and to a teacher from one private school in the D.C. metropolitan area.
Steven King and his class at Shepherd Elementary at a 2008 ceremony honoring King for his NOAA Environmental Hero Award
[Credit: Iris Harris, NOAA]
Among the outstanding ACTS graduates are Darcy Hampton of Alice Deal Junior High School, who received the 2007 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, a prize administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the White House. ACTS graduate Steven King was honored as a 2008 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Environmental Hero for his teaching and management of the annual science fair at Shepherd Elementary School.
The ACTS program "has made me more enthusiastic about science," said King. "I had a class of 29 students this year, and science was one of the easier subjects to teach, for my enthusiasm spread to them."
The stellar reputation of the graduates has made them invaluable resources beyond their own classrooms. When DC FAME I alumni gave a presentation at the Joint Mathematics Meetings earlier this year they caught the attention of math education expert Gloria Dion of Educational Testing Services.
"I was so impressed with the professionalism and knowledge of these panelists," said Dion, "that I requested resumes... to keep in my files as potential consultants for middle-school assessments."
FAME Fellows "are part of a professional learning community that they themselves have created," said Florence Fasanelli, AAAS director of DC FAME. "They can keep up with the latest research in mathematics education, and they can make decisions based on their knowledge that can affect not only the classroom but their peers."
Although many FAME and ACTS graduates have taken on active roles beyond their classrooms, the teachers say the programs have had the greatest effect on their daily interactions with students.
"I think that more students become interested in science because of my hands-on approach to teaching," said King. "And taking the [ACTS] classes has given me more confidence in answering students' questions on many topics."
"Before I became a DC FAME graduate, I just wanted my students to get to the answer," said Thigpen. "But now I ask my students, 'Well, how did you get that answer?' Now they own the information."
24 July 2009