The Teacher Quality Grant has been approved for the 15th consecutive year at ACU adding up to $3.27 million of external funding.
The federal grant, formerly known as the Eisenhower Grant Program, is a program in which high school and middle school teachers spend three weeks at ACU being trained how to teach math and science classes. The program extends to 38 school districts within a one-hour radius of Abilene.
The grant was unintentionally introduced to ACU 15 years ago when Dr. Kim Pamplin, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, wanted to get a new science machine for the department. He sent a proposal to get funding for the machine along with a one-week workshop but was denied.
“I didn’t get funding, but I was told to do the workshop anyway, so I applied for the Eisenhower Grant Program,” Pamplin said. “Eventually, we got funding.”
Since then, the program has benefitted around 150 teachers.
The program started with only high school math and science teachers, but in 2006, middle school teachers were added to the program.
“High school and middle school teachers need to know what each other is teaching,” Pamplin said.
Pamplin teaches chemistry to high school and middle school teachers while other professors teach them how to apply what they have learned in their own classrooms.
Dr. Lloyd Goldsmith, Department of Graduate Studies in Education professor and program director, is one of the faculty members who teaches education strategies.
“I’m a former high school principal and science teacher,” he said. “We go out and train teachers who are underprepared or teaching out of their fields.”
With funding from the grant, teachers are able to go on science-related “field trips” in which they learn the subject matter they will be teaching during the academic year. Last year, they went to Big Bend National Park, and this year, they will go to an outdoor classroom in Junction.
They will then take the material they learn and put together a lesson plan to present at the end of the three-week workshop.
“The knowledge they gain can be easily shared in the classroom,” Pamplin said. “They spend time in class to learn how to apply what they’ve learned and share lessons with each other. All teachers will leave with better tools to better teach their students.”
Teachers accepted into the program fit a unique criteria. Participants who are inexperienced or not certified to teach math or science and come from poor school districts are among the targets for the program.
“Some are new to the teaching profession, some came from another job, and other teachers are master teachers who can share their experiences and knowledge,” Pamplin said. “We need a mix of experienced and inexperienced to make the program work.”
ACU is among many big-name schools that compete for the grant, such as Rice University, University of Houston and Texas Christian University.
“It says a lot that we’ve gotten it 15 years in a row,” Goldsmith said. “I think what saves us it the reviewers.”
The opportunity to network with fellow teachers is what keeps applicants coming back for more, Goldsmith said.
“The most important thing I’ve learned in 43 years of teaching is networking,” Goldsmith said. “(The program) encourages teachers to be belligerent; it encourages them to network. They create professional learning communities, and that in education is big stuff.”