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A first-grade special education teacher interested in media literacy and a high school culinary arts teacher with plans to incorporate lessons from astronomy into her classroom were among the 120-plus teachers who attended the Jan. 10 open house for the Delaware Teachers Institute in New Castle County, which will welcome its inaugural cohort of teachers in May.
The Delaware Teachers Institute, one of five "League of Teachers Institutes" approved by Yale University and modeled after the renowned Yale National Initiative to Strengthen Teaching in Public Schools, partners a dozen K-12 educators (known as fellows) with a professor in a semester-long seminar that feels more like a "professional conversation" than a college course.
Through this collaboration, professors present their expertise in their respective content areas and fellows develop pedagogy for their students and create an instructional unit guide that will be disseminated online for other teachers to replicate in their classrooms.
Funded by the University of Delaware and the five partner school districts (Appoquinimink, Colonial, Christina, Red Clay Consolidated and New Castle County Vo-Tech), the program aims to build content knowledge and improve teaching methods for those working in underserved schools.
"Professional development opportunities come and go, but rarely do we find anything like this that really resonates in the heart of teachers," said state Secretary of Education Lillian M. Lowery. "We are so excited that the brightest teachers will have the opportunity to work with the best minds in higher education."
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The four seminars offered this fall are: "Islamic Thought and Culture," led by Alan Fox, professor in UD's Department of Philosophy; "Reasoning and Sense-Making through Geometry," taught by Cristina Bacuta, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences; "Media Literacy," instructed by Thomas Leitch, professor in the Department of English; and "Astronomy: The Role of Gravity and Life in the Universe," led by Harry Shipman, Annie Jump Cannon Professor of Physics and Astronomy.
The faculty members are highly respected in their field, and all expressed hope that their seminars will include an interdisciplinary mix of participants who can apply the content they learn in the diverse range of classes they teach. "Geometry is not my area of research," explained Bacuta, a calculus professor. "I do it for fun and hope my fellows will say the same after the program ends."
Fellows can attend only one seminar per year. All four seminars begin May 16, include an intensive reading and research period during the summer, and resume in the fall semester.