Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean that educators and students stop learning. That was especially true for those who attended the recent events sponsored by the GEAR UP Educator Development Initiative (EDI) at the University of Washington.
Whether it was a professional development conference for middle and high school teachers to improve their curriculum and instruction, or programs to inspire ninth and 10th graders to pursue engineering careers and leadership opportunities, all three events shared a common goal: preparing students for success in college.
“Summer is an excellent time to bring Washington GEAR UP students and teachers to the UW campus,” said GEAR UP EDI Director Roseann London. “They showed dedication by participating in our programs. My hope is that when they return to school this fall, they will have some new personal and professional tools to bring to their community.”
In June, over 60 teachers attended “The Era of Rising Standards-College Readiness for the 21st Century.” During this four-day conference, participants engaged in activities aimed to improve educational outcomes for GEAR UP students at their respective schools. Sessions on both mathematics and language arts gave them an opportunity to dive deeper into specific subject matters.
Trisha Bradley, a language arts teacher at Okanogan Middle School, has attended all three institutes and presented a workshop on vocabulary instruction this year. She says the benefits of attending are numerous.
“We get the time to actually practice what they are teaching us and it’s really pushed for academic rigor,” she said. “And being able to collaborate with the people that are in our profession and teaching what we teach, sharing ideas. I love it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Bradley also noted the professional development she receives has a far reaching impact. Not only is she able to share what she has learned with colleagues on her campus so they can incorporate the tactics in their work, but all her students benefit from her new knowledge – not just GEAR UP students.
“What they teach us here, it’s enduring,” Bradley said. “It’s here forever. It’s changed my practice as a teacher and effects kids every single year after. That’s the thing I love about coming here. It’s all relevant.”
Summer programs also welcomed high school students to the UW. GEAR UP EDI sent 10th graders from Rogers and Eastmont High Schools to the UW’s Early Engineering Institute in July. They joined students affiliated with RISE UP (Rural Initiative in STEM Education and Undergraduate Preparation) GEAR UP at the four-day conference that was co-sponsored by the UW College of Engineering and Washington State GEAR UP.
Students participated in activities to strengthen math and problem solving skills, prepare for applying to college and learn about engineering careers. They conducted research in UW labs, studied in engineering classrooms, toured Husky Stadium, visited the planetarium and participated in confidence workshops that emphasized the importance of diversity.
In August, over 50 GEAR UP students from across the state spent four days at UW for a Student Leadership Camp. The event was sponsored by Washington State GEAR UP and facilitated by a nationally recognized student leadership training program, Gear Up for Excellence. Participants engaged in leadership development activities, team building exercises and college planning activities with UW students.
The camp culminated with a symbolic board breaking activity. After receiving step-by-step instructions and practicing their form, each student broke a board with their hand as they were cheered on by their peers. The boards represented an obstacle holding them back. The lesson: if you can break through that board, you can break through anything.
Rising 10th grader Tupou Vaenuku discovered the camp through her GEAR UP coordinator. Because she wants to attend the UW after she graduates from Hudson’s Bay High School, she thought it was a perfect opportunity to be on campus and learn some new leadership skills.
“I learned that being myself is key,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about what others think. I shouldn’t change myself for people. I should follow my dreams and not be afraid to try new things.”
GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federal-grant program that fosters college awareness and readiness for low-income middle and high school students. GEAR UP EDI is housed within the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity and is sponsored by Washington State GEAR UP.