Statewide teacher training takes place at THS

ALABASTER – A four-day program held at Thompson High School June 18-21 brought together educators from all over the state to participate in training sessions aimed at helping them provide students with more enriching and engaging academic experiences.

The program, offered by A+ College Ready, allowed 475 math, science, English, social studies and computer science teachers in sixth through 12th grade to participate in the training sessions at no cost to them. Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership, said the goal of A+ College Ready is to increase access to advanced placement courses in high school.

“With this training session, we’re training up teachers at the middle school level so the students can excel at the high school level,” he said. “They start learning analytical and critical thinking skills in sixth grade and continue using and building upon these skills on up through high school.”

Tammy Dunn, vice president of academic affairs for A+ College Ready, said the program takes a different approach to training teachers.

“With our training structure, the teachers take on the role of students,” she said. “They experience the lessons as is they were the student. There’s also time set aside to go over the teaching philosophy. So, they learn what to teach and how to teach it.”

The teachers are then charged with re-creating those lessons in their classrooms, Dunn said. A+ College Ready also provides support and resources to teachers throughout the school year.

Science teacher facilitator Bess Shannon, a sixth-grade science teacher at Austin Middle School in Decatur, taught educators how to make bottle rockets. Before making and testing their bottle rocket creations outside, the teachers researched the best ways to make them and talked about the science behind how it works.

The teachers said they could definitely see themselves incorporating the activity into their lesson plans.

“I really like that it incorporates arts and crafts and book work,” one teacher said. Another teacher said participating in the project from the perspective of the student allowed her to see how common mistakes are made.

Math content director Lee Ann Latta said math educators participated in a lesson where they created a line graph on the floor using tape and then they graphed coordinates using people.

“This allows students to physically see and experience math concepts,” Latta said. “They love it and it keeps them engaged in the lesson. This can be used in sixth grade through pre-calculus.”

Throughout the course of summer break A+ College Ready will have provided training to about 1,600 teachers. Each subject has teacher facilitators teaching the lessons.

“We have two content directors for each subject and while they are out in our schools providing support, they tap those with leadership potential,” Dunn said.

Content directors help identify outstanding teachers and recruit them to participate in the program. Those teachers take part in a leadership training program to prepare them to become teacher facilitators. There are about 100 teacher facilitators participating in the program.

Then, they work with the content directors to create the curriculums being taught to educators statewide.

“What is being taught is very specific to Alabama,” Dunn said. “We’re trying to raise expectations in the classroom. I believe that kids don’t ever really hate a subject, they hate the way they were taught a subject.”

Dunn thanked Thompson High School’s administrators and Alabaster City Schools for allowing the program to take place at the newly built high school. She also thanked the A+ College Ready team for organizing the program.