State official, governor candidate visit AMSTI Summer Institute

NORTH SHELBY – Much teaching and learning was taking place at Oak Mountain Middle School in mid-July, though students had not returned to school early.

The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative division based at the University of Montevallo held its annual Summer Institute at OMMS, with about 900 teachers from Shelby County and surrounding areas undergoing training to make them more effective in their classrooms—and some special guests on hand to learn about the initiative.

AMSTI offers teachers professional development plus on-site support and materials, Education Specialist Rachel Stockard said.

The training features tips, best practices and hands-on projects, taught by fellow instructors, that teachers can take back to their schools. Through the training, teachers become certified for a certain grade level.

AMSTI UM supports about 3,500 K-12 math and science teachers in more than 80 schools. In addition to SCS, teachers from several other systems in the area participated in the training.

Guests at the Summer Institute included Nick Moore, education advisor to Gov. Kay Ivey, and Walt Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa who is campaigning for governor.

Maddox talked with Shelby County Schools superintendent-elect Lewis Brooks, OMMS Principal Larry Haynes and AMSTI UM Director Robin Blair before visiting several classrooms to see what the teachers were learning and speak briefly to them.

Some of the instruction included exercises such as constructing ladybug habitats and mixing metals with hydrochloric acid.

Though STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines have become a focus at schools across the country in recent years, Brooks said AMSTI’s work, which includes materials supplied to classrooms, has been going on for years.

“Those crates have been going into classrooms for a long time,” Brooks said.

Maddox told the teachers that his parents were educators.

“I grew up in a household that understood the value of public education, and I have insight into the sacrifices you make,” Maddox said and promised to be an “advocate” for teachers if elected.

Stockard said other state officials have visited in previous years.

“Our goal is really to give them the opportunity to see what our initiative is about,” Stockard said.