Curriculum news — District teachers and administrators will participate in yearlong program to craft a strategic plan for STEM teaching

Given a second chance at grant funding by the Oregon Department of Education, the Newberg School District has made a substantial investment in providing the kind of professional development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education that it otherwise couldn’t afford on its own.

Newberg’s $500,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) grant was initially passed over by the state, but the district was later notified to reapply and was approved in May.

About $100,000 of that grant will allow Newberg to become the first district in Oregon to participate in the Champions for STEM Leadership Academy, a professional development program from respected Colorado company Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS).

The program will prepare a group of district teachers and administrators to develop a foundational knowledge about effective STEM teaching and a strategic STEM plan for the district. The intent is also to build leadership capacity among Newberg’s STEM teachers so that they can help move the district’s STEM initiatives forward and, possibly, train other teachers to do the same in the future.

“That focus on leadership is what makes this program unique,” district STEM teacher on special assignment Andy Byerley told the Newberg school board June 24. “That’s why they call it Champions for STEM.”

Byerley, who was given the district’s 21st Century Inspiration Award in June, has been working with BSCS to adapt Champions for STEM, normally a two-year program, specifically to fit Newberg, which only has a year in which to complete it because of funding restrictions tied to the grant.

Byerley has sat in on sessions with the program’s first two cohorts, from Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, Colo., and spoke about the program to the board before it approved the transfer of funds.

The bulk of the program will be five full days of professional development in Newberg, two in August and three in October, led by two BSCS trainers, one a doctorate researcher and the other a professional developer.

A group of 17 district teachers representing each grade level and each school in the district will participate, as well as a representative from the regional STEM partnership, of which Newberg is a member.

The program will also include workshops in December, February and May to help guide the teachers through a review and reflection process that Byerley said is a critical piece of the program.

Byerley told board member Ron Mock that the program would put Newberg “way ahead of the game” in Oregon because most districts in the state are either home growing their STEM programs or doing it in concert with one of the STEM partnerships.

“That is part of what puts us out in the forefront, that our teachers are getting a level of training from people who have been doing this for a really long time,” Byerley said.

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