red Supported Site Towson University (Secondary): Teacher-In-Residence

Successes

  • Our TIRs were invaluable in helping the PIs plan and implement project activities and achieve the project goals.
  • The TIRs established an environment in which physics teaching has become a common topic of discussion amongst undergraduates and faculty in the department.
  • The TIRs maintained and expanded important collaborations with the STEP instructors, project PIs, Towson administrators, department faculty, and local teachers and school administrators.
  • Our first-year TIR established such a strong connection to the department that he continues to volunteer a significant amount of time in order to sustain his course reform and mentoring efforts.
  • Our first-year TIR, after leaving the position, was also hired to supervise student teachers, which allowed us to place an experienced supervisor and mentor with these students.
  • The benefits of the teacher advisory group (TAG) are evident as our TIR was able to place PhysTEC future teachers with TAG members for a semester-long one-credit internship (STEP 3). Additionally, TAG members identified at least one high school student interested in coming to TU to pursue physics teaching.

Challenges

  • A new TIR has a steep learning curve with respect to university structure and personnel.
  • Although a potential TIR was identified three months prior to the beginning of year 1, a full six months of effort was spent trying to release this teacher from her school system, and even though a formal MOU was signed between Towson and the school district the recruitment process ultimately failed. This left the PIs without a TIR until halfway through year 1.
  • Due to the lack of a TIR for the first semester of the project, the co-PIs experienced difficulty in accomplishing the planned PhysTEC activities.
  • The first TIR spent a larger-than-expected amount of time assisting faculty with course improvements. These improvements were important and worthwhile in terms of establishing best practices, although a balance should have been established so that these efforts didn't come at the expense of other important PhysTEC activities.
  • Salary limitations prevented us from hiring certain candidates into the TIR position. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that UTeach Master Teachers earned a significantly higher salary than PhysTEC TIRs.
  • The UTeach hiring philosophy for Master Teachers is quite different than the PhysTEC hiring philosophy for TIRs. UTeach hires new Master Teachers only after program enrollment reaches a certain level, whereas PhysTEC hires TIRs specifically to recruit new students and raise enrollment. Now that the PhysTEC grant has ended and the recruitment and retention of physics future teachers has been turned over to UTeach, the lack of a physics-specific TIR will likely impact recruitment and retention.
  • Another difference between UTeach Master Teachers and PhysTEC TIRs is the nature of their job duties. UTeach Master Teachers focus primarily on STEP instruction, student teaching supervision, and program coordination. PhysTEC TIRs have a broader range of job duties, including working with learning assistants and course reform.

Sustainability

  • The UTeach co-directors will hire several Master Teachers in the near future, but it is unclear when a physical science Master Teacher will be hired.

Lessons Learned

  • An energetic TIR with the initiative to develop and implement ideas is critical to the success of a PhysTEC project. It is also important for the TIR to have a broad range of contacts within local school system(s).
  • Given the high salaries of our local high-quality physics teachers (due to their years of experience), the salary limitations for TIRs have placed several qualified candidates out of reach.
  • In terms of recruiting a practicing teacher to be a TIR, it is important to identify the administrators in the school system who have the power to negotiate and obtain the TIR's release from her school position. In our case, it was discovered (too late) that the school principal should have been our primary contact, followed closely by the district's Chief Academic Officer.

List of TIRs over the Project

  • 2010-2012: Jim Selway, a retired physics teacher of 38 years from Baltimore County Public Schools. He taught at Sparrows Point, Perry Hall, and Dulaney high schools. He was also an engineering adjunct at Loyola University for 23 years.
  • 2012-2013: Lisa Rainey, a former Baltimore County physics teacher and Harford County Community College administrator.

Finding and Hiring a TIR

  • Both practicing and retired teachers are good candidates for the TIR position.
  • Early identification and initiation of the hiring process is imperative when working with a school district.
  • To find our TIR candidates, we had success with face-to-face meetings with science supervisors and local advertisements in newspapers and newsletters (e.g., the Maryland Association of Science Teaching newsletter).
  • The TIR needs to have (a) sufficient teaching experience to be effective as a mentor and (b) a teaching philosophy that is a good fit with the project goals.

Typical TIR Activities

  • Maintaining databases of Towson secondary physics majors, Baltimore County physics teachers, potential host teachers for student interns, and local administrators. 2 hrs/month.
  • Meeting with and mentoring physics majors, future physics teachers, and PhysTEC graduates. 3 hrs/week.
  • Collaborating with our elementary science coordinator to plan physics activities for the outreach placements for the STEP courses. 4 hrs/month.
  • Sending emails to area physics teachers to foster collaboration and communication. These emails contained links to useful web sites, information about applying for physics teaching awards, and Towson contact information for high school students potentially interested in physics teaching as a career. 2 hrs/month.
  • Establishing and coordinating a teacher advisory group (TAG) consisting of teachers from Baltimore County, Howard County, and Carroll County. 2 hrs/month. The group met four times over the duration of the project. Developing and implementing content and pedagogy workshops for local physics teachers. 7 hrs/semester.
  • Attending and presenting at local Physics Olympics with PhysTEC future teachers. 15 hrs/semester. The TIRS and accompanying PhysTEC future teachers also ran an information booth at these Olympiads.
  • Observing and meeting with physics learning assistants and participating faculty to provide feedback on teaching methods and help develop lecture/lab presentations. 10 hrs/week.
  • Attending and co-teaching the teaching and learning seminars for new LAs. 2 hrs/week.
  • Engaging in discussions with undergraduates, high school teachers and students, Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences faculty, and Towson administrators about all aspects of the project. 5 hrs/month.
  • Assisting in all other project activities, including the development of marketing materials and the revision of the secondary methods course. 12 hrs/week.
  • With the help of department faculty, developing and implementing a math self-evaluation and support worksheet for algebra-based physics students. 5 hrs/semester.
  • Creating and distributing resource materials (e.g., a resource binder) for future teachers. 10 hrs/semester.
  • Working on community college articulation to create Maryland community college pathways for students who are A.A.T. (Associate of Arts in Teaching) graduates in Physics/Secondary Education. 4 hrs/week.
  • Participated in outreach activities hosted at Towson University (e.g., Saturday morning science program). 3 hrs/week.