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Regis College teaching the teachersJuly 2, 2009
Math/science workshop aims to ensure competitiveness
Weston, MA - America is losing its competitive advantage to other countries in science and technology and will be at an increased risk if it does not at least double the number of students going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. The gap is especially large for low-income students, many of whom learn mathematics from teachers who neither majored in the subject nor studied it for certification.
Regis College is leading a four-day workshop for mathematics and science teachers from Boston’s Catholic elementary schools (levels K-8). The intensive program, from June 22-25, is funded by a federal grant targeted for improving teaching in “high need” low-income schools and is led by Sister Barbara Loud, CSJ, Ed. D., chair of the Regis College Math Department. Boston Archdiocesan School Superintendent Mary Grassa O'Neill (shown above with Sister Barbara) visited Regis to observe the workshop.
“The importance of this training cannot be underestimated. The future of our nation depends on educating a skilled workforce and preparing citizens to function in a complex world,” said Regis College President Mary Jane England, MD. “Every student must receive a solid grounding in math and science, fields where teacher shortages are the greatest. It’s important to our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy to graduate people skilled in math and science who can keep pace with students from other nations and secure the jobs with high technological requirements. Regis College is pleased to be educating the teachers who will, in turn, be influencing those students,” she said.
The Regis workshop curriculum is designed to improve teachers’ skills in helping students comprehend mathematical and scientific concepts. It builds on the best standards and practices from National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and introduces teachers to the latest teaching materials available.
Most of the participants are experienced teachers who come to enhance their professional skills. More than half have participated in previous summer workshops at Regis. “Teachers love to come to this workshop,” explained Sister Barbara. “They get peer support in a lively learning atmosphere. It’s fun. They learn as students would—by working at it. It’s not textbook-y; it’s hands on.” Collaborating with Sister Barbara in conducting the workshop are several other Regis professors, including Dr. Leslie Bishop from the Chemistry Department, Dr Cristina Squeff from the Mathematics Department, Sister Judith Costello from the Education Department, and Dr. Mary Lombard from the Biology Department. Lead teachers from local public schools Laurie Link from the Concord Public Schools, and Geri Cummings, Carol Navetta and Fran Rouff from the Tewksbury Schools are also instructors in the program.
Teachers are separated by the grade they teach, but everyone does both mathematics and science. There are two instructors for each grading group. One is responsible for mathematics, and the other for science. However, they work together to give an integrated approach and, especially for the early grades, also integrate their teaching with literacy development. So they introduce children’s books that enable reading, as well as the mathematics or science. Teachers will be provided materials which will help them explore problem solving and reasoning.
“The workshop is a great opportunity for inner city Catholic school teachers to get innovative ideas and materials that they would not be able to get otherwise,” Superintendent O’Neill said. “The professional development opportunity is enhanced by teachers’ ability to share ideas with other teachers, and in my first year on the job I have already seen the benefit in our schools.”
There are 19 Catholic elementary schools in Boston, with over 5,000 students in grades PreK-8. They are ethnically diverse with 50 percent white and 50 percent other ethnicities, and are overwhelmingly low-income.