Local teachers back into classroom — as students

Published 3:31 pm Monday, August 1, 2022

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By Angela Cutrer
Five local teachers went back to school this summer to learn more about teaching science and math to their own students.
Barbara Stout, Happy Valley Middle School; Jessica Ward, Cloudland High School; and Nikki Jenkins, Kathi Hill and Sarah Blevins-Putland, all of Valley Forge Elementary, attended the Eastman’s MathElites and ScienceElites programs. There they learned different tactics to teach science and math to children.
Sponsored by Eastman, a company founded in 1920 as a global specialty materials company, and East Tennessee State University, the event was held at the Kingsport Center of Higher Education in Kingsport.
Selected teachers attended a two-week intensive graduate-level summer class to learn new teaching strategies through demonstrations, lab tours and assistance with lesson planning. The participants then take the concepts and hands-on experiments back to their own classrooms.
This is the first time Carter County teachers have been invited to participate.
Jenkins teaches science to grades third through fifth. She can’t say enough good things about the Elites program. “Most things I do in my classroom, I purchase myself. This program showed us cheap, easy and applicable lessons for multiple age groups. They did lessons with us. They went through the lesson and then, at the end, we pulled together to show how our group would do something, and we learned from the other groups with different ideas.
“I was really impressed and enjoyed every single minute. I learned so much and I’m excited to use these lessons in my own classroom.”
Sarah Blevins-Putland said she was the only kindergarten teacher to attend Science Elites and it was “a wonderful two weeks. It was so nice to get the chance to collaborate with teachers from other systems and grade levels. They shared all sorts of wonderful ideas and resources.
“Our professors were amazing and it was so much fun [that] it didn’t even feel like we were attending a professional development program. I will never forget the experience, and I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to attend. …It will benefit our teachers and students so much for years to come.”
The Elites programs provide “insightful and inspirational training to math and science teachers. Empowering teachers to apply fresh and creative teaching strategies and practical applications strengthens existing curriculum and is having an exponential impact in the classroom,” the event’s web page explained.
Elementary science teachers in Eastman’s home communities gain valuable insights for teaching the physical sciences through Eastman’s SciencElites program.
“This is an initiative that brings together Eastman’s own scientists, representatives from the East Tennessee State University Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education and participating school systems for the purpose of enhancing existing science curriculums in the public schools,” the website reported.
In partnership with East Tennessee State University Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education, the programs have benefited more than 40,000 students.

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