Supported Site University of Arizona: Teacher-In-Residence

Successes

  • Over the past five years, we have been able to hire four different teachers-in-residence. Two were high school physics teachers, and two were middle school science teachers.
  • Each of the teachers-in-residence brought unique strengths and skills to the program.
  • Student in the program perceived the teachers-in-residence as having more current expertise about the classroom than do our faculty members and adjunct instructors.

Challenges

  • It was often difficult to convince expert physics teachers to leave their classrooms, for fear that the enrollment in their classes would drop.
  • Working with local school districts in terms of their willingness to release the teachers-in-residence was challenging, as was working out the paperwork details each year.

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • Currently, we have no institutional support for teachers-in-residence. We are exploring other options with local donors.

Lessons Learned

  • It was often difficult for the teachers-in-residence to adjust to the relatively unstructured climate of the university, in which they were expected to set their own schedules and had time to think.
  • After a year on campus, three of our four teachers-in-residence left their school districts to pursue other opportunities. Fortunately, this didn’t appear to impact the districts’ willingness to “release” teachers to work on campus with our program, partly because we were able to offer them beginning teachers prepared in our program as replacements.

List of TIRs over the Project

  • 2006-2007—Thais Cunha: she taught middle school science for 14 years at Doolen Middle School, Tucson, AZ
  • 2005-2006—Julia Olsen: she taught middle school science for 15 years at Doolen Middle School, Tucson, AZ
  • 2004-2005—Phil Gilbert: he taught physics for 15 years at Tucson High Magnet School, Tucson, AZ
  • 2002-2004—David Byrum: he taught physics for 30 years at Flowing Wells High School, Tucson, AZ; he won the Presidential Award in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Finding and Hiring a TIR

  • Early in the spring of each academic year, the UAz PhysTEC PI contacted physics and physical science teachers in the Tucson area to let them know that we were seeking a TIR for the next academic year. This “word of mouth” advertising was much more successful than posting a job opening on the University website. The one time we did that resulted in only one qualified applicant. Except for one year, we only had a single applicant for each year’s position.
  • TIR applicants were asked to complete an application form (see Appendix 2) and participate in an interview (see Appendix 3) with CoS TPP instructors.
  • Once we had identified our TIR each year, our PhysTEC accountant worked with the contracts office at the TIR’s school district to prepare the paperwork. The district’s Governing Board had to approve a leave of absence for each TIR, and the University contracts office signed a contract with the school district. The contract stated that the TIR would continue to receive his/her salary from the district, and the district would invoice the University for the cost of the TIR’s replacement.
  • In all cases, we provided the new TIR with contact information for appropriately certified graduates of our program who might be hired as his/her replacement. For only one TIR did the district hire one of our program graduates.

Typical TIR activities

  • Co-teach science pedagogy courses in the CoS TPP; 15 hours/wk
  • Assist adjunct instructors with field placements for science pedagogy courses; 1 hour/wk
  • Supervise student teachers during bi-weekly classroom visits; 3-12 hours/week (dependent on number of physics/physical science student teachers each semester)
  • Mentor preservice science teachers in the CoS TPP; 10 hours/week (Much of this mentoring occurred during informal conversations with preservice teachers before and after classes, and in responding to their e-mails and phone calls.)
  • Mentoring beginning physics/physical science teachers in Tucson area, including classroom observations and follow-up discussions; 1-5 hours/week (dependent on number of interested beginning teachers)
  • Work with physics faculty members to develop materials for reformed physics courses; 10 hours/wk (This was part of the responsibilities of our first two TIRs.)
  • Participate in CoS TPP meetings; 1.5 hours/every other week
  • Participate in teacher partner meetings; 2 hours/1-2 times a semester