Teachers use summer vacation to grow as educators

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published August 2, 2011

 Harper Woods Middle School science teacher June Teisen tests water samples recently on a vessel on Lake Superior.

Harper Woods Middle School science teacher June Teisen tests water samples recently on a vessel on Lake Superior.

HARPER WOODS — Some people think of summer break as a break for teachers as well, but Harper Woods teachers are spending their summer vacations learning new concepts that they can bring to the classroom.

That has meant spending time with NASA expanding their teaching skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, courses, and even spending a week on a research vessel on Lake Superior with other teachers doing water-quality testing.

“We have many teachers around the district who are making investments to prepare themselves to better meet the needs of our students next year,” Harper Woods Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said.

Last month, middle school teachers Sheree Burns and June Teisen went to California for three days for the STEM training.

Then, Teisen took off to spend time on a research vessel on Lake Superior.

A group of 15 teachers worked with the Environmental Protection Agency scientists doing fieldwork.

“It’s awesome,” Teisen said while still away on the vessel. “Not only do I feel it is important for teachers to regularly take on the role of student, (it) keeps me in touch with the challenges of being a learner in unfamiliar situations, but it also allows this biology major to touch base with my inner field scientist.

“I am making face-to-face connections with university and government researchers to deepen my knowledge of the science behind today’s hot environment topics,” she added. “I’m fashioning lessons to bring back to my students, but I’m also helping the researchers bridge the gap between their incredibly complex research and the next generation of environmental stewards — our kids.”

After that, Teisen was planning to travel to Washington, D.C., to present a unit that she developed for the Smithsonian and piloted with students.

This month, secondary math and English teachers will meet for in-service days to prepare teaching techniques in these core subjects.

“This is part of our school improvement grant,” Biederwolf said.