Supported Site Seattle Pacific University: Teacher-In-Residence/Visiting Master Teacher (VMT)

Successes

  • Lezlie DeWater has been able to continue bringing practical experience and knowledge of young learners and K-12 education to the projects and programs for prospective and practicing teachers. 
  • Lezlie taught two sections and co-taught one section of the Elementary Science Methods course. She also taught one section and co-taught one of the physics content courses for elementary teachers during the academic year. 
  • Lezlie developed and taught two workshops for middle school teachers in the Yakima School District (a heavily minority district in eastern Washington) that focused on 4th- and 6th-grade physics and physical science concepts.
  • Through Lezlie’s strong collaborative relationship with Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), which provides programs in STEM for minority students, she has been able to share related resources for elementary students with pre-service teachers in the science methods courses.
  • In coordination with MESA, two of their curriculum coordinators collaborated with Lezlie to develop a science immersion experience for twelve 5th- and 6th-grade girls from a local public school. These girls represent a number of minority groups. The TIR procured funding through the Physics Department for the experience and, in June 2007, took the young scientists for a three-day science experience at SPU’s Field Station on Blakely Island. MESA faculty and the TIR are currently discussing a follow-up session for last summer’s participants.
  • Lezlie also taught a one-day workshop called “Elementary Science Lead Teachers” in the Seattle School District.
  • The TIR led one of the class sessions in the LA pedagogy course.
  • Lezlie has begun providing science-focused mentoring to two first-year elementary teachers. Mentees have been identified and initial contact has been made. Resources have been provided for both mentees and PD has been arranged for both. Funding is in place to expand this program to a larger number of first year elementary teachers in 2009-10.

Challenges

  • Finding time and teachers to mentor, given the teaching responsibilities of the TIR, continues to be a concern.
  • Another challenge is finding time to become familiar with physics majors and to participate in the LA preparation and introductory physics courses because of commitments to education program courses.

Sustainability/Physics Department Buy-In

  • The TIR has helped to create a strong collaborative relationship with the Seattle School District, the Yakima School District, and MESA. She has shared her particular expertise with resources relevant to the elementary setting with the Joint Education/Physics Faculty member.
  • During the 2007/2008 academic year, the TIR will solo teach three of the courses previously co-taught with the Joint Education/Physics Faculty, thus reducing the amount of money needed from outside the university to fully fund the TIR.
  • Lezlie is currently fully supported by grants from the NSF.

Lessons Learned

  • It will continue to be the mission of the TIR to build on the success and proven record of projects and programs that have preceded or that are executed in parallel with those we initiate.
  • Collaboration with educational and corporate organizations that have needed expertise can be extremely valuable and need not compromise the success or integrity of a project.

2006-2009 TIR

Over the past 31 years, Lezlie DeWater has held positions in the Seattle School District as an elementary classroom teacher, an elementary science specialist, an assistant to the district science coordinator, a science resource teacher, and liason between the science program in the district and the Physics Education Group at the UW and the Physics Department at SPU.

  • The TIR’s affilitation with the Seattle School District and continued participation in most of the professional development opportunities in science afforded to district employees keeps her informed of current science education research, state learning expectations, and teaching strategies being endorsed and supported at both the district and state levels.
  • The TIR and Joint Education/Physics Faculty shared unique key features of their science education courses at the annual spring meeting for university faculty in Washington State who prepare K-12 teachers to teach science.
  • The TIR partnered with the Mathematic, Engineering, Science Achievement organization (MESA), a national organization that provides opportunities in mathematics, engineering and science for underrepresented students in grades K-12. Using exemplary materials and instructional approaches, the TIR piloted a three-day field investigation immersion experience for eleven female minority students in the upper elementary grades.

Typical TIR Activities

  • Teaching courses at SPU. (~40 hours per week depending on the week and the quarter)
    • Grading assignments/projects/tests
    • Evaluating course/instruction/assignment effectiveness and reflection
    • Planning/designing/debriefing course activities
    • Locating/contacting resources
    • Gathering equipment, preparing materials
    • Student interactions- tutoring, advising, responding to email
  • Attending physics department, school of education meetings (~1 to 3 hours per week)
  • Communicating with collaborators outside of the SPU community person-to-person or by phone (~1 hour per week on the average)
  • Reading/responding to relevant email not including student queries (~5 hours per week)
  • Attending professional education activities (~6 hours per month on average)
  • Designing, preparing for, conducting workshops outside of SPU (~ 8 hours every other month)
  • Reading relevant research and resources (~2 hours every week)

Visiting Master Teacher (VMT)

Successes

  • The Visiting Master Teacher (VMT) program began at SPU in 2007 as a pilot program to assess the impact that a part-time master teacher can have on teacher preparation at a liberal arts college. Since the inception of the program Sherm Williamson and B Lippitt have served as VMT’s.
  • VMT’s have been a critical source of wisdom based on experience for new teachers, pre-service teachers, and those considering teaching. They have shared everything from real classroom solutions and tricks of the trade to thoughts on being ‘riffed’ and the likelihood of re-hire.
  • Sherm and B have partnered with the SPU School of Education in order to officially assume responsibility for supervising the student teaching of secondary physics and physical science teachers.
  • Sherm Williamson, B Lippitt, Lezlie DeWater, Eleanor Close, and Lane Seeley have successfully initiated a mentorship program for physics and physical science teachers during their first year of teaching.
  • Some new teachers have taken advantage of the opportunity to build a strong mentoring relationship with Sherm or B. In these cases the VMT has been instrumental in helping a new teacher reflect critically and constructively on their experiences in the classroom.

Challenges

  • It has been difficult for the VMT to integrate into the flow of the physics department when they are working with the department only on a part-time basis. It has been difficult to predict the hours that would be required for mentoring and these hours seem to vary widely from week to week.
  • Working a limited weekly schedule made being at all the events or doing all the paperwork impossible.

Sustainability/Physics Department Buy-In

  • One goal of the VMT position is to demonstrate the need for and impact of intense, content-specific mentorship through the first year of teaching. We are hoping to use the VMT position to create a mentorship model which we can expand through private funding sources.
  • Both Sherm and B are continuing to supervise student teaching and serve as mentors for first year teachers.

Lessons Learned

  • It takes time for a part-time visiting teacher to gain the necessary perspective on the program in order to gauge opportunities for impact.
  • It is important that a VMT can be on campus as much as possible to develop as many contacts with students as he or she can.
  • The VMT job description and goals must be clearly defined.

2007-2008 VMT

Sherman Williamson brings 33 years of high school physics teaching experience to SPU. He received the Washington Science Teachers Association Secondary Science Teacher of the Year Award in 1995. In addition to his work with the PhysTEC project at SPU he works on a department project to design web-based diagnostic assessment tools.

2008-2009 VMT

B Lippitt served as the primary VMT at SPU during the 2008-09 academic year. B brings extensive science teaching experience ranging from grade 2 through 12. B also serves part time as a Professional Development Facilitator in the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology.

Typical VMT Activities

  • Communicating and reflecting on VMT experiences. (~1.5 hours per week depending on the week and the quarter)
  • Discussing physics teaching as a career with interested undergraduate physics students. (2 or 3 occasions during the quarter)
  • Keeping up with the email load from PhysTEC and SPU was necessary to stay in touch with activities to be involved in and to develop ideas as to what could be done. (1 or 2 hours per week.)
  • Attending physics department meetings to develop an understanding of the workings of the department. (1 hour/week)
  • Attending the TAG (teacher advisory group) meetings. (3 or 4 evenings during the academic year)
  • Doing RTOP observations of teachers in the field. (2 or 3 times during the year)
  • Observing and counseling an intern teacher in the field to help develop her physics inquiry questioning, class management, and general teaching skills. Working with her was also just to help her with any general problems she ran into while beginning teaching. (3 to 4 hours at least every other week)
  • Working with students in the science methods class. This involved one formal presentation-discussion session in class and then follow-up help on email.
  • Arranging classroom visits with master teachers for prospective teachers. (2 – 4 times during the year)
  • Meeting with the Physics Department and the Education Department in order to develop ways to increase the influence of the Physics Department in the training of new physics teachers. (2 – 3 times during the year)
  • Meeting with outside groups of science teachers in the Bellevue School District to help maintain a link between them and SPU (3 – 4 times during the year).