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Twenty-seven STEM teachers were on campus recently for the sixth annual Materials and Manufacturers Summer Teachers’ Institute, a school-to-career initiative that targets STEM skills instruction in the New Haven and Bridgeport Public Schools, grades 7-12. The teachers’ professional development is the institute’s strategy for engaging 7th – 12th grade students in the practical uses of STEM skills in manufacturing and materials science.

This outreach effort — a strategic partnership among SouthernCRISP, the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the American Society for Materials InternationalCT Technical High School System and the New Haven Manufacturers Association — focuses on teacher education. It immerses teachers in the needs, rigors, skill sets, applications, and training that the manufacturing community need and employ.

To date the program has impacted over 150 teachers from across the State. Christine Broadbridge, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research, & Innovation (GSRI) and co-director of the institute, is pleased with the program’s success. “We are looking into expanding and also offering specialized programs for school administrators and school guidance counselors,” she said. Broadbridge also acknowledged the many contributions to the institute made by Robert Klancko, partner, Klancko & Klancko, LLC, and co-director of the institute, who is moving out of state later this year. “Bob has worked tirelessly to champion industry-academic partnerships, and the impact of his efforts are significant and far reaching. This program would not have happened without his hard work and dedication.” Mr. Klancko is the recipient of the 2018 Leadership Award from the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame.

This year’s Institute’s theme was “Gearing Up For The Future,” and the teachers learned about gears — how they are designed and how they are made. On the first day of the institute, a morning session was held at Southern, and an afternoon session was held at Leed Himmel, where teachers toured the manufacturing plant and saw aluminum extrusion and fabrication, and heard from hiring professionals. The second and third days were held at Platt Technical High School in Milford. On these two days, the teachers not only learned about the manufacturing process and materials, but also gained hands-on experience on various machine shop equipment.

An optional fourth half day took place at Assa Abloy, where teachers toured the facilities and spoke to industry professionals. They saw how lock hardware was fabricated and how the extrusions from Leed Himmel were employed.

Overall, science faculty attending the institute learned from industry operations and technical professionals about the following:

  • Their firms and what they produce
  • STEM skill sets that are required
  • The raw materials used, how the product is made and what it is required to perform
  • Why certain materials are utilized and the critical properties of those materials
  • What goes into creating a product
  • Obstacles and limitations associated with creating a product

The start of a new school year generally spurs a bit of anxiety to students – especially for those about to enter a new school. Who doesn’t have some butterflies in their stomach the night before classes begin, or when meeting your teacher for the first time?

But along with that angst and a need to prove your scholastic mettle once again, September also offers the opportunity for a fresh start. In baseball, if a pitcher’s ERA was uncharacteristically high the previous year, or if a hitter’s batting average was surprisingly low, spring training offers hope and promise to turn things around.

A new school year offers students parallel academic opportunities – reclaiming a spot on the honor roll, a chance to boost your overall average and class rank, successfully completing an Advanced Placement course to earn college credit. Last year was last year. This year is now.

A new school year gives students a chance for a fresh start. Wise Words offers some tips on how to start the new school year off right.
A new school year gives students a chance for a fresh start. Wise Words offers some tips on how to start the new school year off right.

But what steps can you take to start the school year off right? Kelly McNamara, assistant professor of counseling and school psychology at Southern, offers several suggestions. She is a former school psychologist having worked in Connecticut and Massachusetts schools.

Today, Wise Words launches a 2-part series on how to start the new school year off right. McNamara shares her ideas in both posts.

Part I

*Learn from those who walked the path before you. Talk to students who recently completed the course or year you are about to start. Ask about workload, topics addressed in classes, teachers/instructors and other important pieces of information that will help prepare you for the year to come. While finding out that Mr. Jones or Ms. Smith is a tough teacher is good to know, ask what specifically makes them so tough. What do they like or dislike? Similarly, you might hear that sophomore English is very difficult. But then ask why and what kinds of assignments are forthcoming. “Remember, people will differ in their opinions about what was enjoyable, tolerable or unpleasant, so be sure to get a variety of opinions,” McNamara says.

*Seek guidance. Talking to a guidance counselor, or perhaps a teacher or two, can answer some questions and concerns you might have. Maybe you had a good relationship with last year’s algebra teacher. Ask them what geometry will be like. If you don’t know any students to talk with about a course or year, counselors might even be able to help put you in touch with someone. “These professionals are great resources to help you navigate the unknown at school,” she says.

*Have some fun. In fact, plan for it. Various studies show that engagement in school is important, yielding benefits to students, such as higher academic achievement and lower dropout rates. “One way to be more engaged in school is to have something that you look forward to and motivates you to be there,” McNamara says. “Find something you enjoy and do it, whether it is a class that is interesting, a sport you love, or a club that fulfills your creative or volunteer spirit. It’s a lot easier to get out of bed and get to class when you have something motivating that is waiting for you.”

*Make the most of your electives. Most schools have a certain number of required, or core courses. For example, every sophomore might need to take English II. But electives are those classes in your schedule that you choose to take. For example, you may need to take five classes next year, but only three of them are core courses, leaving room for two electives. Courses in the arts are frequently electives, as are those in computer science. But even additional courses in the “basics” can be electives, such as going beyond your three-year requirement in foreign languages and taking a fourth year of a language. “Use these ‘flexible’ credits to make the most of your school experience, whether it’s for fun or to help you achieve your goals,” she says. McNamara points out that a larger number of students today apply to majors or specialized schools when applying to college (such as engineering). Electives can be a way to provide you with specialized training and give you a “leg up” on the competition.

Coming soon:

Part II – More helpful hints to start the new school year out right