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September 2009  |  Return to issue home

Noyce Teaching Scholars Grow at D.C. Conference

Last year, the UW College of Education welcomed our first cohort of Noyce Teaching Scholars. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the first class includes eleven teachers in training, eight with a science emphasis and three with a math focus. The competitive, national program will ultimately fund 36 scholarships for UW College of Education secondary teachers in training.

Anna Kramer, left, and Jamie Deaton Deutch
Anna Kramer, left, and Jamie Deaton Deutch

Mark Windschitl, chair and associate professor in the area of Curriculum and Instruction, is the Principal Investigator (PI) on this project. As PI, Windschitl oversees the selection, education, and induction of these Noyce scholars. Candidates must demonstrate content knowledge in science or mathematics, experiences with learners in diverse settings, and a commitment to help all children achieve at high levels. As scholar recipients, they pledge to work for two years in high-needs Puget Sound schools following certification. 

The Noyce scholars are committed to their personal/academic growth and, ultimately, to devoting their profession to students and schools that need them most.

“I’m proud of the quality of teachers in this program,” Windschitl states. “They are individual but they have a collective energy and commitment to working in high-needs schools… It’s becoming an ethos with them.”

Noyce scholars participate in the Teacher Education Program curriculum, which immerses all pre-service teachers in high-needs schools from the start of the program. For example, this summer the secondary teachers in training are participating in the Garfield bridge program.

The Noyce students are learning from many different teaching settings. As Windschitl explains,  “We thought that the Noyce scholars might like to see a different teaching setting for high-needs kids. So we brought them to the summer site for Rainier scholars, an academic program for middle-school kids from high-need backgrounds which is layered on their traditional academic program…They watched one of our doc students and master teacher, Melissa Braaten, in action. They sat in on a couple classes and watched a couple of different teachers. They also got to debrief about teaching and, most importantly, about the students.”

The first Noyce cohort is a social bunch, always gathering to talk and eat together. Christine Chew organizes Noyce activities, like regular get-togethers to generate community.

“Christine has been great with organizational ideas and planning experiences for Noyce scholars,” Windschitl posits. “[For example], before spring quarter started we had a big dinner at Cedars. Anytime the Noyce people get together, there is a meal.”

And, this summer, two scholars attended the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Conference. Windschitl emailed all of the fellows about the opportunity, opening it up to the first two responders. Jamie Deaton Deutch and Anna Kramer claimed the slots. 

“Even though they just happened to be the first two students that emailed me, they are very special people,” Windschitl states. “They are very dedicated to teaching in challenging situations and they are very keen observers of kids lives and kids learning and kids thinking. So I was thrilled that those two people came with me. They’re energetic and bring a good energy to the whole cohort.

Windschitl. Deutch, and Kramer joined other Noyce PIs and scholars for a three-day conference in Washington D.C. From sessions on how to organize the Noyce program to workshops and presentations on advances in teacher preparation, the conference offered intensive opportunities to learn and connect with others in the field.

Jamie Deaton Deutch, who studied Biology and Psychology at Dickinson, previously taught science in Georgia, Michigan, Illinois, and Washington, while working towards an application to medical school. Yet “something was missing”, as she came to realize while leading a backpacking trip in the Washington Cascade mountains.

“I needed more,” Deutch explains. “I wanted to spend more time with students and really get to a deeper level of science… When I emerged from the backcountry in September, I did everything in my power to get a powerful application into the UW so I could learn how to teach science from the frontlines.”

On the DC trip, Deutch was amazed at the depth of the Noyce program and the conference contributors. The guest list included authors, policy makers, an educational adviser to Obama, and other luminaries.

As Deutch states, “Hearing Steve Robinson nonchalantly speak about his journey as a teacher and into his job as a Special Advisor in the Department of Education to Secretary Arnie Duncan was inspiring.  He gave many anecdotal stories on how to stumble and then succeed plus much helpful insight into teaching as a profession.  Additionally, he spoke to how important it is to have good math and science teachers, even when many other scientific professions appear to have more glory and higher salaries.”

Kramer, who hails from an “old timber town” in Grays Harbor Country, also praised this experience, stating, “They were sharing a method of teaching that involves focus on the types of questions you ask students (specifically, keeping the questions at a high cognitive level to really facilitate learning)… Because I believe that Noyce is really, at the heart, about building a network/community of people across the nation, I think that events like this are crucial to the program's success. Realizing that you are not alone as you face your teacher education program, or your first year of teaching, can be a necessary element of being an effective educator.”

A UW undergrad, Kramer’s involvement with the UW Dream Project led her towards the field of education.  She states, “I love the Noyce experience for a lot of reasons, one of them being the Washington, DC trip. However, just having a general community of thoughtful, caring math and science educators to fall back on is a priceless thing. Not only do I have a group of colleagues to bounce ideas off of, but I have a wonderful support group as well. So, I would have to say that I appreciate the community it has fostered the most!”

At the conference, the Noyce scholars appreciated the opportunity to connect with their own peers, other scholars from around the country. For example, the University of Kentucky hosted one breakout session that dealt with teaching methods, titled Using Inquiry in Math and Science by Jana Bouwma-Gearhart, University of Kentucky and Garnett Coy, UK.

Both Deutch and Kramer experienced “aha moments” as session participants. As Deutch summarizes, “The University of Kentucky Educators presented a breakout session based upon modeling a scientific phenomenon and then engaging students (at this instance teachers) to make observations, identify patterns, create a scientific model to account for the phenomenon, and to communicate with each other to develop an accurate model of the phenomenon. During the session, Garnett Coy, University of Kentucky Noyce Scholar began asking Anna and I probing questions. We looked at each other with huge smiles on our face and at the same time blurted out “ He is doing what Mark is teaching us to do! We aren’t the only ones!”  Both of us were completely ecstatic to meet other future teachers out there striving to teach science by inquiry and in the same non-traditional fashion as we are at UW. “

At the conference, Deutch and Kramer helped Windschitl present a workshop a teacher induction, which incorporated a great deal of Windschitl’s own research and College of Education programming information. The two Noyce scholars filmed parts of the workshop with flip cams and assisted with the demonstrations as well as the Q&A sessions.

As Kramer explains, “The point of the workshop was to have participants analyze student work in order to practice using kids' partial understandings of scientific concepts to modify or adapt future lesson planning. This was part of a broader discussion about using Critical Friends Groups as support for beginning teachers. The workshop was exciting for me, because there were some people that attended who are quite impressive on the CV, if you know what I mean, and they were asking us questions.”

When asked if they had anything else to contribute, Deutch added, “I know this article is about the Noyce Conference specifically, but if there is anything that truly stuck out for me as I walked away, it was just how extremely fortunate I am to be a member of the secondary science cohort in the Master in Teaching Secondary Teacher Education Program at UW.  Everywhere we went at the conference educators, administrators, and scholars, wanted to know about what it is we are doing at UW, how our program works, and why we think we are going to be successful teachers. I felt incredibly empowered and grateful that I could represent the university. Moreover, I felt I could answer their questions truthfully and though while not always easy, my coursework, professors, teaching assistants, and tools from UW will help me become a great teacher in not only in high needs schools, but truly help me get students to really understand and comprehend science in general!”

“My sentiments exactly,” Windschitl adds. “The entire cohort of secondary science and math folks are special people.”

September 2009  |  Return to issue home

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