School For Teachers Wraps Up

August 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 6:00 am | Updated: 11:34 pm, Fri Jul 23, 2010.

By JADE ANDERSON janderson@theitem.com, reprinted from the Sumter Item

Sometimes, even teachers go back to school.

Math teachers for first through sixth grades from Sumter school districts 2 and 17 have spent two weeks on the University of South Carolina Sumter campus. These teachers have been participating in a summer math camp called Unveiling Mathematics Standards.

Marilyn Izzard, USC Upstate’s director of teacher education program located on the USC Sumter campus, said the teachers have been energetic every day when they come to learn about math content and methods for teaching math.

“We are teaching and modeling what we want them to do,” Izzard said. “Sometimes teachers are taught differently in college, and we want to make math memorable.”

She said the goal is higher student test scores.

Megan Burton, an assistant professor in the College of Education at USC Columbia, was teaching methods at the camp. She explained that content is the actual math, such as what is the square root of four. Methods, Burton said, are effective ways to teach and how students learn.

Debra Geddings, who teaches early, elementary and middle education at USC Columbia and was teaching content at the camp, said she has been very pleased with the teachers’ dedication and receptiveness.

“We don’t teach it like a third-grade math class,” Geddings said. “I believe if you don’t know math above what you are teaching, you can’t help make the connections.”

She said she has focused on answering the “whys” of basic foundational math.

“You always need to be making connections,” Geddings said. “What students work on one week to what they are working on this week and next week. It’s more about understanding than memorizing.”

Becky Hillman, an assistant professor of math at USC Sumter who was also teaching content at the camp, agrees with Geddings and said she mostly focused on sixth- and seventh-grade level math.

“It’s always good to learn new things,” Hillman said. “When (Sumter 2 and 17 merge), everyone may not be teaching the same grade they’ve taught all along.”

JhoAnn Clark, an instructor for USC Upstate and who taught methods during the camp, loved the idea of the two districts working together and said the teachers who participated can serve as resources for each other.

“This is an excellent opportunity for districts 2 and 17 to collaborate, to get to know each other,” Clark said. “It’s a wonderful, great opportunity to for friendships and share ideas.”

Clark retired as a curriculum resource teacher for Alice Drive Elementary after serving in District 17 for 34 years.

The teachers say they have really enjoyed the camp and learned a lot from it.

Beth Moore, who teaches third grade at Millwood Elementary and has been teaching for eight years, said she enjoyed working with teachers both within her district and from District 2 to share ideas about what works with their students.

“We hope to create a community in the classroom, so it’s nice to experience (that in the camp),” Moore said.

Cedric Hobbs said it’s been informative and he’s gained a wealth of knowledge to improve his teaching in math and other subjects by working with items such as manipulatives.

“The use of hands-on teaching and learning, where they can see it and touch it, makes it more real and more concrete,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs is a teacher at Manchester Elementary. He teaches math and science in grades three through five and has been a teacher for 14 years.

“I’m glad to take anything to help me further my knowledge,” Nathan Anderson said. “I’ve really enjoyed it, (and) it’s been quite an interesting learning experience.”

Anderson is starting on his fifth year as an instructor and is currently teaching third grade at Crosswell Drive Elementary. He said he’s learned some things he was doing with his students are good and about a few areas he could improve.

“Being a young teacher, I’m always looking for newer and innovative ways to teach the same ol’, same ol’,” said Kendall Van Sickle, a third-grade teacher at Shaw Heights Elementary who is entering her third year of teaching.

She was especially interested in hearing about breaking students into smaller groups and working more one-on-one with them because, she said, class size will be in the 30s this year.

Izzard said the teachers took assessment tests at the beginning and end of the two weeks. The course will continue with one Saturday meeting in August, one in October and a final one in December. In the meantime, Izzard said the teachers will be able to communicate through an online program and will work on their action research projects.

Clark said the teachers would try ideas for areas they might be weak in or just new concepts they’d like to try. She and Burton gave examples of journaling math notebooks, cooperative groups, learning stations and manipulatives. Burton said the teachers will complete a paper and make a final presentation in December with handouts for each of the other teachers. They will measure student and teacher growth in relation to the project, Burton said.

The camp was funded by a grant from the state Commission on Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Education. Paula Gregg, program manager for academic affairs for the Commission on Higher Education, said the federal grant is part of the No Child Left Behind Act and is awarded to high-need school districts based on high poverty rates and low percentages of highly qualified teachers.

Reach Jade Anderson at (803) 774-1250.