teachers Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Jonah Firestone
Firestone

RICHLAND, Wash. – WSU Tri-Cities is developing a teacher endorsement program in computer science that has attracted a $49,000 grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and a matching contribution from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Currently, there is no teaching endorsement program at any universities in Washington state for computer science, which makes program development in the subject increasingly important in today’s advancing technological society, said Jonah Firestone, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of teaching and learning and campus lead on the grant.

“The state of Washington has pushed to have at least one computer science teacher at every school who has an endorsement in the subject,” Firestone said. “Up until now, it was usually a math or science teacher who also had an interest in computing that would serve that role. But we need to take that further and offer an endorsement in the subject in order to best prepare our teachers.”

The first phase of the grant funds, he said, will fund the development and offering of professional development workshops with teachers from five districts that include Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Prosser and Othello. The workshops, which currently are being developed by WSU Tri-Cities and PNNL and will be taught by PNNL computer scientists this spring, will provide training on computer science concepts and skills and for designing computer science curriculum.

The funds will also go toward stipends for educators who participate.

Firestone said there will be a combination of teacher recruitment for the program and recommendations from districts for current instructors who would immediately qualify for the program based on their roles in schools.

“We’re looking at teachers who are already in technology classes, plus we’re working with our contacts at the local science, technology, engineering and mathematics schools to inquire about teachers who would qualify and be interested,” he said.

Morrison Judy
Morrison

The second phase of the grant entails the analysis of data collected over the course of the workshops, which will then be used for the development of a computer science certificate program for educators. Firestone and Judy Morrison, associate professor of teaching and learning, will co-lead the project. Together they will analyze the workshops and develop the certificate program.

Firestone said the certificate program will combine education courses with computer science courses.

“Classes on the content are not enough,” Firestone said. “We have to have classes on how to teach this material to the kids.”

WSU Tri-Cities is the only university in the state selected for the grant program. Twenty-four other districts, schools and nonprofits also were selected for the program, who will use the funds to train teachers, provide and upgrade technology, and expand access to girls, students from underrepresented populations and communities who have historically been underserved. The grants awarded to higher education institutions across the state total nearly $1 million.

“We are very grateful to OSPI for presenting this opportunity and to PNNL for providing the in-kind matching funds that will go toward the program and their time in working with us on this endeavor,” Firestone said. “This grant is allowing us to get this program started and off the ground. This is stage one of a multistage process.”

 

Contacts:

RICHLAND, Wash. – David Isley, a recent Washington State University Tri-Cities alumnus (education, ‘17), received a rare opportunity in his beginnings as a teacher this year — the opportunity to student teach with his own first-grade teacher.

Janelle Rehberg (right) and David Isley

Janelle Rehberg (right) and David Isley

At WSU Tri-Cities, students are required to complete a number of volunteer hours in a classroom setting before being admitted into the undergraduate education degree program. Isley decided to seek out his own first-grade teacher, Janelle Rehberg, to complete his volunteer work at Cottonwood Elementary School. After the experience, Rehberg invited Isley to complete his student teaching in her classroom during his senior year at WSU Tri-Cities.

“We hit it off right away, although it did take him a long time to get him to call me Janelle, instead of Mrs. Rehberg,” she said with a laugh. “David is a natural in the classroom. He’s great with the kids and it’s obvious that he loves teaching.”

Rehberg said she has never heard of another teacher and former student working together years later as a mentor and mentee in student teaching.

“It really is rare, but that made it all the more special,” she said.

From student to teacher

As a first-grade student, Rehberg said she never imagined Isley would become a teacher. Isley was an outgoing, passionate young student who had a passion for science and dinosaurs, she said.

“I would have thought he’d go on to be a scientist,” she said.

Isley said even to this day, he still thinks dinosaurs are the greatest, but instead of studying their history as a career, he plans on using them to educate a new generation of students.

“I’m excited to introduce them to my own students,” he said. “I do plan to feature dinosaurs in some of my lessons.”

Since his own days as first-grade student, Isley said the grade level has seen a lot of changes. For one, technology has advanced rapidly, and students use iPads, advanced computers and more to complete their work, innovate and create, he said. Rehberg said students are also expected to know a lot more.

“When I was in the first-grade, we learned the alphabet,” Rehberg said. “Now, that is usually learned in Preschool before they get to kindergarten. From the public’s point of view, I’m not sure people realize the amazing achievements of young little kids these days. Every generation seems to move along more rapidly than the previous one. The reading performance of today’s first graders is impressive.”

Isley said he’s up to the challenge for educating the talented youngsters.

“I’m excited to jump in and work with these amazing kids,” he said. “One of the best things I’ve learned from Janelle is that you have to know your kids and meet them where they are. That’s something I plan to use in my own career as a teacher. That, and you have to make learning fun.”

Foundational learning for use in the real-world

Isley said he appreciates that WSU Tri-Cities requires so much real-world work in the classroom, as that’s the business that teachers are in – working with children and inspiring in them a passion for knowledge.

“Being able to apply what I’ve learned through my professors and textbooks at WSU to the real-world setting in the elementary school classrooms is invaluable,” he said. Rehberg agreed.

“You don’t learn nearly as much as when you are right here in the trenches,” she said. “That first-hand experience is the best.”

Looking toward the future, Isley said he plans to take what he learned through both his coursework and professors at WSU Tri-Cities, and what he learned from Rehberg, to educate a whole new generation of students.

Isley recently accepted a kindergarten teaching position at Washington Elementary School in the Kennewick School District. He’ll also have a piece of Rehberg in his future classroom to remember his student teaching experience with his first-grade teacher, mentor and now colleague. Rehberg said she made a giant sculpted dinosaur for a class project and plans to give it to David to hang in his future classroom.

“It really has all come full-circle,” Isley said.

Rehberg said she’ll miss Isley teaching alongside in her classroom, but that she’s excited for his future.

“Since I had David in my classroom, I’ve missed him terribly,” she said. “I loved having David student teach in my class. But I know he’ll be successful wherever he goes.”

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

gisela-ernst-slavit-headVANCOUVER, Wash. – Washington State University has won a five-year, $2.2 million grant to increase the number of certified K-8 teachers with bilingual and English learners (EL) endorsements and to provide professional development to improve EL instruction.

One of the main goals is to build on the strengths and talents of experienced paraprofessionals. The project will provide full scholarships to a minimum of 52 paraprofessionals to complete their bachelor’s degrees in education with EL endorsements. It is anticipated that at least 30 percent will be bilingual.

Other goals of the project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, will be to improve parental, family and community engagement and build resources for local outreach and national replication.

EL teacher shortage

None of the 295 school districts in Washington had their ELs meet all reading or math standards during the 2013-14 school year, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. ELs had much lower pass rates in reading than the student population at large, said EL professor Gisela Ernst-Slavit from the College of Education at WSU Vancouver.

gisela-ernst-slavit-web
Gisela Ernst-Slavit

“Washington schools are facing a crisis right now,” said Ernst-Slavit, who will work on the grant project with Judy Morrison, Yuliya Ardasheva and Sarah Newcomer at WSU Tri-cities and Kira Carbonneau at WSU Pullman.

The simple solution is to increase the quantity of EL teachers. But Washington – like most states – is experiencing an overall teacher shortage, especially in the central and southwestern parts of the state.

“As a result, what we see are schools using stop-gap measures to fill voids,” Ernst-Slavit said. “That includes emergency certifications and using substitute teachers instead of full-time teachers, which does a disservice to both teacher quality and student learning. Ultimately, student achievement suffers.”

Tri-Cities, Vancouver districts partner

Nowhere is this more apparent than around the Tri-Cities. While the state average of EL students per district is 10.5 percent, Pasco, for example, has 52 percent.

Pasco schools – along with those from Evergreen, Grandview, Kennewick, Prosser and Richland – are partner districts in the project, which is called Equity for Language Learners-Improving Practices and Acquisition of Culturally-Responsive Teaching (ELL-IMPACT).

“Collaboration between mentor teachers and our teacher education programs is at the core of this project,” said Ernst-Slavit, citing the WSU researchers’ specialized knowledge, expertise, cultural backgrounds and research perspective. “This is the kind of collaboration that places the college in a unique position to address the needs of our state by providing access and opportunity to our diverse communities.”

 

Contact:
Gisela Ernst-Slavit, WSU Vancouver College of Education, 360-546-9659, gernst@wsu.edu