ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — High school teacher Nicole Conway begins her 21st year of teaching this Fall.
She is one of 160 teachers from Rockford and the Sauk Valley area who are giving up two weeks of their own time to take part in a math and science training project at Northern Illinois University.
Conway says she’s taking part in the project “to grow my capacity, to meet my students where they’re at, just to, kind of, get them engaged in their own learning and to not do it like we’ve always done it, so to speak.”
Teachers are exploring new ways to bring math and science concepts to their classroom. They’re learning to design their own activities and lessons to implement over the next school year.
“We try to put them in the role of the students and actually have them experience some of the things that their students might experience,” said Kristen Brynteson, Director of Professional Development for NIU STEAM. “So, we talk a lot about productive struggle and learning through failure, and looking at different ways that they can bring those concepts to their students.”
The professional learning event allows teachers to connect with other educators and share best practices.
Anji Garza, Director of Professional Learning at the Regional Officer of Education in Sterling, said, “The teachers are not only exploring those connections, but they’re digging into: what does authentic learning really mean in our classroom? How to I give good feedback? How do I think about promoting access for all of my learners? So, [we’re having] some really wonderful conversations and reflections.”
Teachers also got the chance to visit local employers to see how math and science are used in industry today.
“We need to learn this, because it’s going to help us solve this problem. Or, it’s going to help us create this project or proposal,” Brynteson said. “And, it’s something that impacts not just you in the classroom, but beyond. Beyond the classroom walls.”
NIU received a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education to provide the professional learning development.