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ITEEA MEMBER ON THE MOVE

Follow the year-long experiences of Terrie Rust, an ITEEA member
who has been chosen as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow.

A Year in the Life of an Einstein Fellow
Terrie Rust


INSTALLMENT SEVENTEEN

August 2011

This is my final installment of the blog for my year as an Einstein Fellow at the National Science Foundation. The year has gone by quickly. I have learned a lot, experienced things and met people I never would have thought I would have the opportunity to, and believe I have left an impression on DC as much as it has left its impression on me. 

July was a busy month. I was fortunate to attend the World Future Society’s first Education Summit in Vancouver, BC. There were attendees from all over the world. The Summit brought speakers from several areas of education to talk about what’s happening and trends to look for in the near future. I had some time to explore Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city. 

Upon my return to DC, the K-12 Education Policy conference that ITEEA was co-sponsoring was held. There were only a few of us from ITEEA there and ITEEA President Tom Bell has already written about it in an email to us all so I won’t repeat. However, it was clear that ITEEA needs to continue promoting itself in public venues like this. 

The Einstein Fellows’ final opportunity to participate on a Wilson Center for International Studies panel allowed for the discussion of Targeting Top Teachers for Superior STEM Education. This discussion was all about what makes a highly effective STEM teacher. The webcast can be viewed at:  http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/targeting-top-teachers-for-superior-stem-education. Those of you who attended the Minnesota conference session on this topic will be especially interested in what was shared by the panelists.

The US Department of Education presents a summer series for teachers. This summer’s sessions are on the Department and the current educational policy issues affecting teachers. Sessions one and two occurred during July; sessions three and four will take place in August. Session one was sort of an ED 101 primer, discussing how the Department formed (did you know that in 1867 Congress appropriated funds to create a Department of Education?), the educational reports that have impacted most of us (A Nation at Risk, Goals 2000, ESEA, NCLB), how the federal grant process works, Title 1 (and Titles 2 and 3), education budgets, and more. Session 2 focused on the differences between what the federal government’s and state governments’ roles are in education, including curriculum, the Common Core standards, funding, and the stimulus. Session 3 will be on August 11 with the topic of Fixing What’s Broken in NCLB and Session 4 is scheduled for August 25 with the topic of Leading Their Profession:  Teachers and Education Policy (both from 6-7:30pm EST). If you would like to watch Sessions 1 and 2 and watch Sessions 3 and 4 live, you can check it out at: http://www.ed.gov/teaching/summerseminars.  If you’re close by, you can attend in person. One important thing I learned is that in order to be effective in expressing your concerns, you need to know who to direct your concerns to. Many of the issues we “think” the Feds handle are actually handled by the states. 

P1010859.JPGEinstein Fellows were invited to tour the US Patent and Trademark Office. This is a unique agency, with a workforce of nearly 10,000 people—8,000 of whom are patent reviewers. Their education and outreach is new, relatively, and their goal is to get the word out to students about intellectual property. Technology and engineering educators should be especially concerned about teaching their students the importance of protecting intellectual property, but also about the patent and trademark protections since our teaching involves design and invention. At their site in Alexandria is housed The National Inventors Hall of Fame. This unique museum highlights the development of patents and displays the inventiveness of product development. Their current exhibit highlights food products. If you’re in the area, stop by; admission is free. I posed for a picture with iconic Mr. Peanut. 

The entire third week of July was spent working with panelists who had come to NSF to review the states’ Presidential Awardee (PAEMST) candidate applications. Half the week the math applicants were reviewed and the other half was for the science applicants. All year I have been encouraging technology and engineering teachers to apply. The only current “catch” is that you have to focus on a math or science concept within your lesson. I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO APPLY! I know there are great T and E teachers among ITEEA members and you have a REALLY GOOD chance of winning! National winners receive $10,000 (for yourself, not your school) and a trip to DC to be formally recognized. There were many states that had NO entries this year (!), which means your chances are pretty good. Applications will open in September (you can be nominated or self-nominate) and will be available at:  http://www.paemst.org

P1010864.JPGDuring the last week of July and the final week of my fellowship, I attended the second of the Department of Education teacher sessions (previously mentioned). I also volunteered at a really fun event:  the YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention. YMCA kids from all over the DC area came to the event (we’re talking HUNDREDS of kids). Some had entered “thingamajigs” in the invention contest. These were all constructed with recycled materials:  clothing, contraptions, robots, games, etc. There were booths all around the huge arena where the event was held. I was volunteering in the NSF booth. The booth was presenting an Engineering is Elementary activity on creating parachutes. Erik Russell, a fellow Fellow and ITEEA member led our team at this event. Our booth was unbelievably busy! It was a very fun day and a great way to end the fellowship…working with kids. 


Thanks for following my adventures this year. I hope you’ve learned something and perhaps have been inspired to pursue the Einstein Fellowship yourself. Applications open in the fall. 


INSTALLMENT SIXTEEN

July 2011

After the excitement of May, June settled down a bit. There was a lot going on with seminars and briefings; not a lot going on elsewhere. The Einstein Fellows participated in a forum at NSF entitled “Nature vs Nurture,” discussing whether great teachers have innate qualities that make them good teachers or if it’s the training they receive that makes them good teachers. You might have your own opinion on this.

June was a busy month for grant panels. I assisted on CRPA panels (Communicating Research to Public Audiences) and sat in on ITEST panels (Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers). Grant panels are very interesting because you get a glimpse into the types of research being carried on. You may not be aware that the Google concept started out as a NSF project.

As a final project for the Fellowship, we had to prepare a poster highlighting our year. The posters were displayed at the Russell Senate Office Building during an open house. It was during set up for this that one of the Fellows told me my senator was across the hall. As you can see, I was able to get my photo taken with Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

I attended a Hill briefing on STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities. The discussion centered around a program where science, math, and technology teachers worked together on a project (this was called a “learning community”). The concept is good, and I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences. However, as I’ve seen in DC, many “great” or “new” ideas are ones that we (tech teachers) have been doing for a long time! One downside of the experience they shared was that their administrator didn’t provide a common time for them to plan their activities. They had to meet after school and on weekends! I hope that others in DC who look at programs like this see that teachers must have time to work together within the confines of the school day for this to be truly innovative.

During the last week of the month, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology hosted a three-day workshop on Creating Quality Secondary STEM Programs. The purpose of the workshop was for teachers/administrators of schools that were thinking of creating a STEM program or school to learn about the different types of programs already in place and to get ideas for their program. I attended to have some background so that if I’m in a position to advise anyone, I would have some information to share. I ran into a familiar ITEEA face: John Kraljic from Maine. Several staff members from his school came to the workshop.

Since I had not been back to Arizona since I left last August, I decided it was time for a bit of vacation. I took off at the end of the month for a week’s stay. I have decided not to return to Arizona after my fellowship time ends (long story but my school district did not offer me an equal position to the one I left). There’s still a month left in the fellowship and plenty of opportunities. My last posting at the end of July will share those insights.


Thanks to all of you who have been reading the blog all year. It’s been a great experience to be in DC and an honor to have been able to share it with all of you in this way.


INSTALLMENT FIFTEEN

June 2011

C:\Users\Owner\Pictures\Einstein\U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.jpg

This month has been packed with activities. I attended The National Science Bowl Championships held on May 2nd. The finals for junior high and high school teams were held prior to the awards ceremony. The questions were so tough I only understood two of them! The student competitors were amazing. U.S. Energy Secretary Chu briefly spoke to the students and coaches in the audience then took a few questions. One young man asked if he could shake Secretary Chu’s hand; he said yes. Everyone clapped when the student walked up and shook Secretary Chu’s hand. It was a moment the student will not soon forget! However, all of the participants worked hard to reach the finals, so it was like each of them was part of the handshake.

The National Research Council (NRC) held a two-day Workshop on Successful STEM Education in K-12 Schoolsthat I also attended. The workshop was a succession of invited reports prepared on various topics of STEM Education. The entire webcast is available to view at:  http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nrc/110510/default.cfm?id=13569&type=flv&test=0&live=0 . I made comments twice: once at the end of Day 1 (Wrap Up of Day 1) about one minute into the webcast, and once at the end of Day 2 (Bringing it All Together) about 30 seconds into the webcast. The second comment was important because throughout a presentation made on STEM teacher training on Day 2, the presenter mentioned nothing about the STEM Education programs at Hofstra or Virginia Tech. Also not mentioned were Technology Education programs, which I brought to their attention. I wanted the committee (the reports were going to them for evaluation prior to publication) to hear that there were some excellent programs already in existence. When another comment mentioned a lack of discussion of engineering and technology during the workshop presentations, one committee member suggested that technology standards could be added to the Science Framework (science standards) currently under revision. I HAD to comment to make the committee member aware that the Standards for Technological Literacy (STL) already exist. One of the reports, School Climate/Organization, is especially interesting to view and hear the details about the study done. Worth your time to watch.

Presidential Awards for Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) K-6 teacher awardees came to DC for their recognition events during the month. In October’s ITEEA MOM installment, I explained about the PAEMST program and my position at NSF working with the PAEMST team. This time around I didn’t get to go with them as they met the President. However, I was on the White House tour when Dr. Jill Biden (Vice President’s wife) joined us in the East Room to say a few words to the awardees. She was very gracious. 

This past week, a group of Einstein Fellows went on a road trip! Two of the Fellows who work at the Department of Energy arranged tours for us at two of the national labs. We first drove up to Princeton, NJ to tour the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. This is the place where they’re doing all the research on fusion energy. They have great education and outreach programs. Check them out at http://www.pppl.gov

C:\Users\Owner\Pictures\Einstein\Road Trip to Physics Labs\P1010753.JPG

Before we left Princeton, we took a side trip to Einstein’s home (during the time he lived in Princeton) and to the Institute for Advanced Study. It was at the Institute that Einstein did much of his research.

After an overnight stay on Long Island, we visited Brookhaven National Lab. Brookhaven is one of five multi-disciplinary labs in the U.S. There are many important projects going on here. One such project took place in the early 1970s and led to the development of PONG (yes, THAT Pong!). Nowadays, though, their work extends to working with superconducting magnets, photons, and ion acceleration. We toured their Science Learning Center (for K-5 students) and three different groups of students were engaged with the Center staff during their class’s field trip. Brookhaven has many programs for engaging high school and college students and teachers in joint research with scientists at the lab. Check them out at http://www.bnl.gov

I have now been in DC for an entire school year’s term. I’m feeling like a DC native, in a way. There are still experiences to be undertaken and still much to see. If you’ve never been to DC, it should be on your bucket list. Apply for the Einstein Fellowship next year and you could be in DC for a full year!


INSTALLMENT FOURTEEN

May 2011

Two great experiences with students occurred during the past two weeks.  Mike Fitzgerald asked me to come to Delaware to be a judge for their TSA State Finals. Delaware’s just a short drive east from DC and I spent two days there judging several events.  Besides Mike’s familiar face, John Singer had a large group of his students there. Everyone was extremely welcoming.  In addition to the events I participated in as a judge, I was also the commentator for both the Middle School and High School Tech Bowl events.  

VA TSA State FinalsMike Fitzgerald and TerriThe second experience occurred barely a week later. I was contacted about judging at the Virginia TSA State Finals, held about 45 minutes west of DC, near Dulles. Virginia’s event was much larger than the Delaware event, and students and events packed the conference center. I sawVirginia’s Lynn Basham there, who was also judging. 

These were my first experiences with TSA and I was quite impressed with the high quality of student work, the professionalism of the students, and the detailed organization required to run these complicated endeavors. Everyone involved was friendly and helpful to those of us (I was not the only one) who were judging events for the first time. 

Last week, I received an email from a long-time colleague in my school district in AZ. She was coming to NSF to spend a couple of days in a working group looking at the new CSTA (computer science) standards. When she arrived we met for dinner and I got caught up on news from AZ. She’s only the second person I’ve seen from my hometown, so it’s a big deal to connect with my Arizona friends.

The next few weeks at NSF will be crazybusy. We’re preparing for another group of Presidential Award winners to arrive in DC. Another visit to the White House and photo op with President Obama is in the works, as well as a really grand dinner. More details later!


INSTALLMENT THIRTEEN

April 2011

 

March began my seventh month as an Einstein Fellow. So much has occurred during the first half of the fellowship, but the last half promises to be equally exhaustive! In early March, a group of fellows toured the NBC studios here in DC. We were informed, in detail, about NBC Learn, an educational resource that takes advantage of the extensive archives of more than 60 years of NBC stories, photos, and videos. Most of the resources are available through their subscription service, but some are free. NBC Learn resources can be viewed at http://www.nbclearn.com.

San Francisco State University held an informative session on the Hill to promote their STEM initiatives. I was interested in attending because of what SFSU was presenting and because Nancy Pelosi was going to make an appearance. Washington is like being in a “Hollywood” of sorts, and seeing the “stars” is no different. She entered the room with a small entourage, and as she spoke, cameras were flashing.

Just to reinforce how quickly the fellowship is moving along, interviews were held in early March for the 2011‐2012 cohort of Einstein Fellows. I was an interviewer for my position for next year. Forty‐two candidates came to DC to interview. The 2011‐2012 cohort was announced April 1.

NSF’s Informal Science Education cluster held their grant proposal panels in March. For three days, each of the Program Officers led a panel of experts in the fields of their grant areas in review of proposals for NSF funding. I sat in on the panel for my sponsor, but also visited some of the other panels. There is always a lot of interesting discussion because funds are limited, and awarding the highest quality proposals is taken very seriously. Panels only make recommendations; the highest ranked proposals then go before NSF directorates for final judgment on awards.

Intel Science Talent Search     

One of the perks of being an Einstein Fellow is being invited to special events. We were invited to attend the Intel Science Talent Search Gala (read semi‐formal event here!). This is the culminating event for the Intel Talent Search, which solicits research projects from senior high students around the country. Forty finalists were brought to Washington where their research projects were on display for the public through a poster session, and where an elite panel of judges selected the top ten finalists. The finalists were announced at the Gala. Monetary awards ranged from $20,000 to $100,000. Student project topics sounded like PhD dissertation topics. One of the students was notified that his research will be receiving funding for the next ten years! THIS is our future of amazing young people. The photo shows the entire finalist field and the top ten winners.

I have been very fortunate to be included in some important discussions on the definition of STEM taking place at the Department of Education. I’m there to represent the T and E viewpoint.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) invited me to present to parents at their STEM Workshop for Middle School Students held for Arlington, Virginia students and parents on March 19. Women with expertise in STEM fields presented to students and parents during sessions at that event. I spoke to parents about gender and equity issues and preparing their child for a career in a STEM area. One of the attendees invited me to speak to another group in a couple of weeks.

The Science Framework (precursor to the new science standards document) is a real hot topic right now. I have attended two events designed to solicit input. Since there are engineering standards included within the new framework, it’s been important for me to see how those are intended to be implemented.


A real highlight of the month was our ITEEA convention in Minneapolis. It was my first real trip to the city renowned for its white stuff. It did not disappoint. My plane landed on a completely white tarmac. I was pleased to discover the vast system of skywalks which allowed me to traverse the inner city without venturing outdoors into the biting cold. There were too many great highlights of the convention to list them here. Photos, which have already been posted of the convention, tell some of the story. The keynote speakers gave us lots to think about. We acknowledged the hard work of our excellent teachers and programs. Four members were awarded their DTE recognition; I’m pleased to say I was one of them! The vendors and sessions provided something for everyone. As one of many presenting at the Technology and Engineering Showcase on Saturday, sharing best practices with my fellow attendees provided one more way to be able to “give back.” My trip to Minneapolis would not have been complete without a visit to the Mall of America. Believe it or not, I was too overwhelmed to do much shopping!

 

DTE
Cherry Blossoms

The day after I returned from convention, I was notified that my article was published in the April 2011 TET journal. This is the research I completed earlier in my fellowship that involved surveying ITEEA members’ use of informal education resources. It was an important recognition within my NSF division because it established some formal credibility for my accomplishments. The DTE recognition was also acknowledged within my office. Even though I’m an Einstein Fellow among a field of PhD’s, there’s a separation in the perception of worth. Suddenly, I have received new respect. I think this is important because my work at NSF will have a greater impact.

Lastly, I was invited to speak to a class of new science teachers enrolled in a course at George Washington University. I spoke to them about how to integrate technology into their science topics. I used a news article discussing the use of chicken feathers for biodiesel and for hydrogen storage. Since the research was conducted by engineers, we discussed how to convey to students that “researchers” are not just scientists, and also the role developments in technology play to improve upon what scientists do.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least one mention of the cherry blossoms in bloom in DC. This is Cherry Blossom Festival time and there are over 3000 cherry trees in full bloom this week. Hope you enjoy the photo.


INSTALLMENT TWELVE

March 2011

I have always been curious about how technology and engineering education are taught in the primary grades.  Fortunately for me, the Virginia Children’s Engineering Convention was held last week in Richmond, VA. Richmond is a mere two-hour drive from DC,so I decided it was too close to miss. I was not disappointed. The conference was sponsored by the Virginia Children’s Engineering Council, an affiliate of ITEEA affiliate, VTEA. Thekeynote speakers included Dr. Elizabeth Parry from NC State University, Dr. Henry Petroski from Duke University, and Dr. Arthur Bowman from Norfolk State University College of Science and Technology. Greetings and comments were shared by the VA Secretary of Education, Gerard Robinson. The convention was well attended (several hundred people) and even had attendees from Alaska! A cohort of vendors provided some great project ideas, including one from a company called Children’s Engineering Educators, LLC. You’re probably familiar with the owner, ITEEA’s very own Ginger Whiting. Her company has produced a Children’s Engineering Series that will be introduced through Pitsco in July 2011. 

I’ve connected on email with Dr. Marlene Scott and Cindy Jones, past and present ITEEA Children’s Council Presidents, but we had a chance to meet and catch up at the conference. Conferences are a great opportunity to network and this one was no different. I even connected with someone in the bar who represents a post-secondary center located in the Phoenix area. The information he provided on his organization was immediately shared with one of the Educational Program Advisors at the Department of Education in Phoenix. Small world!

I’m looking forward to the ITEEA conference in a couple of weeks. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Friday afternoon to discuss a hot topic in Washington: highly qualified STEM teachers. There has already been input from science and math teachers on what a highly qualified STEM teacher looks like from their perspective. Kathryn Culbertson, from the Triangle Coalition (they oversee the Einstein Fellowship program), will be joining me in this session to get technology and engineering teacher perspectives of what “highly qualified STEM teacher” means. It’s your chance to let your voice be heard as yourfeedback will be shared with policymakers in Washington. 

  

Terrie and Cindy Jones.jpgTerrie and Marlene Scott.jpgTerrie and Ginger Whiting.jpg(Left to right: Terrie with Cindy Jones, Terrie with Marlene Scott, and Terrie with Ginger Whiting).


INSTALLMENT ELEVEN

February 2011

When you hear the word “Langley” mentioned, it should bring to mind the home of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Fellows were fortunate to tour the facility, thanks to one of our own who met a scientist from there at a scientific meeting. You might recognize the entry into CIA Headquarters because of the huge CIA seal on the floor that has been shown in numerous films. It’s really quite impressive to see up close. However, the parts of the building visitors are allowed to see is quite open, with people walking around like at any other company. (Some thoughts of dark hallways and people in dark suits and lab coats were in our heads . . . again, because of the portrayal of the CIA in films.) There are several wonderful museums that we toured, full of the history of the organization and the “tools of the trade.” One funny thing of note: at the gift shop there was a sign that said “If you are undercover, do not use your credit card to make purchases.” Also while at the facility, we met with some of the staff who oversee the education programs for the CIA. They mentioned how it’s been difficult for them to hire qualified computer-trained workers because not enough students are coming out of our institutions with the training needed for the agency. The CIA does have internship programs for high school and college students.  You can check these out at the CIA website (http://www.cia.gov ). To participate (or to be employed), a rigorous security check is undertaken that actually can take months. EVERY new employee undergoes a lie-detector test. Oh, and if you were thinking you’d like to be a “spy,” you can’t be older than your mid-30s to enlist to do that type of work. 

I was fortunate to be able to attend a conference held in DC. Sponsored by ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), the Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA)Conference’s main function was to train attendees to be advocates for education in their states. After spending a day-and-a-half learning how to best approach the elected members of Congress about various issues, we actually visited their offices and spoke to them or their staff members. A lot of good information was relayed at this event and I felt well-prepared to go out to advocate. This was not my first opportunity to learn about advocacy or to practice it, but the lessons learned were more detailed, and I felt more competent to advocate when I actually went out to do so. I would highly recommend joining this organization and attending their training events. 

Einstein Fellows are often asked to participate on panels to discuss education issues. A couple of weeks ago, I participated on a panel with three other Einstein Fellows hosted by the Wilson Center International Center for Scholars. The topic of the discussion was “Scalability: How to Take Local Successes in Education to a State and National Level.” The presentation was webcast live, and can now be viewed at:  http://www.wilsoncenter.org/ondemand/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.play&mediaid=F2A77DC7-D33F-3910-60FCA3BE07647070. The importance of taking successful programs and scaling them for use by others is currently a topic of wide interest. This was a great conversation about what could work and what might not work in scaling such programs. 

Last week, Einstein Fellows and Department of Education Fellows were invited to participate in a panel discussion held at the Department of Education. The title was “A Conversation with STEM Teaching Fellows,” but the topic was highly effective teachers (HET). Some comments shared included: HET require students doing things, questioning, and thinking critically; are highly effective not just highly qualified; they introduce ‘real world’ connections; those who are ‘practicing’ their ‘art’; and, those who provide meaningful opportunities for students in AND out of class. 

During the past month I’ve also attended the following panels, forums, or discussions: A Senate Perspective on Education Legislation in the 112th Congress; GRE Test Revisions; Are Traditional 4-Year University Programs Becoming Obsolete for Mainstream America?; and, Engineering Education and Research:  How Engineering Colleges Help the U.S. Compete.

In addition to the many opportunities outside of NSF to pursue, I spent some time earlier this month compiling information for my Division on NSF Research Centers (NRC). NSF has a cohort of research centers around the country whose main task is to research a particular topic or subject. Most of these are located at universities and are comprised of researchers who share a similar interest in the research topic, whether the researchersare housed at the same university or at others. All of the NRCs are required to have a component of educational outreach. This outreach spans a wide audience, and varies from site to site. Many provide programs for elementary, middle, and high school students, either on site or through the web. So, if you’d like to do a lesson on materials science, for example, there are resources available from many of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers. If you would like a copy of this NRC document (Excel SS), email me at trust@nsf.gov and I’ll be glad to share it with you


INSTALLMENT TEN

January 2011

PBS_NewsHour_control_room.JPGThe end of 2010 was quiet at NSF, but I had two tour opportunities before the year ended. The first was to see the East Wing of The White House.  Decked out in her holiday splendor, the House was a lovely sight to behold. Each room had at least one Christmas tree and there were beautiful wreaths hung on the walls. Lot of photos displayed presidential events and presidential family gatherings. The second tour was to the PBS NewsHour studio, just a short drive from NSF. Three of us from NSF (Fellows) were first led on a tour of the offices of the PBS NewsHour staff, including Jim Lehrer’s office. Next, we viewed the NewsHour and Washington Week sets.We had been initially invited to sit in the control room while the program was broadcast, and took our seats about 15 minutes before the program started. It was very interesting to watch as each segment ran its course, before and during the broadcast, all according to a very detailed, timed script. The control room and newsroom look very much like what many of you have in your school media labs: walls of TV monitors and lots of computers! The folks at PBS NewsHour were very gracious in answering all our questions. 

On January 5th, the Fellows were invited to spend a day at the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland. The Center staff introduced us to many of their connections to physics and science education resources and career education. They have a complete clearinghouse of materials helpful for teachers including short TV broadcasts on STEM topics, which can be accessed at http://www.discoveriesandbreakthroughs.org. Another great resource site ishttp://www.physicscentral.com. At this site there are resources for many areas familiar to Tech Ed, including optics, materials science, and forces and motion.We heard from a variety of physics groups (medicine, statistical research, physical society, government relations group, physics teachers, and education outreach) and learned what they’re involved in. The education group engaged us in a very cool laser activity involving looking at the difference between LED and laser light emissions with 3D glasses. 

One of the most talked-about STEM schools in the U.S. is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Education in Alexandria, VA (http://www.tjhsst.edu ). The Fellows were invited to tour the school by a Fellow from last year’s cohort who now teaches there. Attendance at TJHSST is by an admission process; the top priority is the ability to be successful in math and science. It’s got about 1800 students, many who travel by bus over an hour EACH WAY to attend this school. Students must use knowledge and produce (read “research” here).If a student’s GPA gets to a B-, he or she would be put on academic probation! Students are primarily recruited in junior high and spend all four years at the school. New students are not normally accepted after their freshman year. The school does offer basics as well as arts and athletics but the focus is on science and math. One of the classrooms I visited was a freshman Tech Ed class. It looked a lot like my classroom and many of yours, too, I expect. However, their research labs are more like what you’d see in a college classroom. Seniors can enroll in research labs such as: Oceanography, Neuroscience, Automation and Robotics, Prototyping and Engineering Materials, among others. These classes are what the students are especially excited about taking. 

Terrie's presentation at Fellows Brown Bag.jpg Two events took place recently that had a direct connection to ITEEA. The first was my presentation to NSF on “Integrating the S and T in STEM Classrooms.” Several IdeaGarden members submitted slides to include in my presentation, which showcased an activity representing STEM integration. The event was well-attended; the room was at standing-room-only! Presenting to NSF how technology education classrooms are integrating the STEM concepts as a regular occurrence was important to showcase. The second event revolved around the survey in which many IdeaGarden and Children’s Council of ITEEA members participated for me. At the request of an NSF Program Officer, I first surveyed Einstein Fellows regarding their familiarity with Informal Science Education (ISE). The group I’m working with at NSF awards grants for ISE, those resources normally accessed outside of classrooms; for example films, museum exhibits, TV programs, and websites. After analyzing those results, I decided to expand the idea and survey selected ITEEA groups with the idea of presenting the results in a journal article. Before ISE was called ISE, it was simply called “informal education” (IE) and this was the basis for my survey questions. I’m saving the majority of the results for the article’s publication but one result was that even though 50% of respondents had never heard of “informal education,” nearly all respondents use informal education resources to bring real-world experiences to their students. An interesting aspect of IE is that, originally, the resources were designed for access outside of formal education settings; now, because of budget constraints in districts, a lot of those resources are being used inside of classrooms. The fact is, they ARE being used. I’m enjoying working with the group providing grant funding to those who are developing these resources for you. By the way, Design Squad Nation is one of those ISE resources my sponsor oversaw during its development. 

I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about my sightseeing excursions, but this past holiday weekend another Fellow and I took a trip to see two presidential homes. The first stop was Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. During the weekend we also visited the University of Virginia’s campus, founded by Thomas Jefferson. I learned so much about Jefferson’s MANY accomplishments. The second presidential home was James Monroe’s home, located just a few miles from Monticello. Both of these men were directly involved in the beginning of our nation. Their thoughts on democracy and personal freedoms still resonate nearly 200 years later. 

Teachers need to be aware of what’s going on in education policy deliberationsin DC, as these will soon impact what happens in their states. Two phrases are currently in the forefront of education discussions. “College- and career-ready” (C&CR) is a phrase that the Department of Education is looking for a definition for, especially as it pertains to technology education and career and technical education. Even though we might have an idea of what it means for us, C&CR isn’t easily defined for students in all areas. The second phrase highly profiled is “broader impacts” (BI), especially at NSF. NSF has been focusing on BI for over 15 years, but the federal government is now holding NSF to a mandate of grantee proof that their work will have a broader impact, especially in education. The importance of broader impacts is not lost on us. Much of the impact of what takes place in Tech Ed classrooms extends far beyond the classroom and campus doors, through TSAs, competitions, community participation, and more. Know that as the reports of broadening participation’s importance make it out through educational media, YOU can be proud to be working examples of what some in education will be just starting to learn. 


INSTALLMENT NINE

December 2010

 

As I explained in Installment 6, I have been helping the NSF office that oversees the PAEMST awards.  The awardees arrived in DC on Monday, December 13th and they spent the following four days hearing from leaders in education, the government, and visiting NSF, Capitol Hill, and the White House.

On Thursday, I accompanied them to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where they were going to get their picture taken with President Obama. Did you hear that?

I GOT TO GO WITH THEM TO SEE THE PRESIDENT!

When the President came into the auditorium, I was only about six feet away from him. AMAZING! We were not allowed to take any photos of him, as only the professional photo was allowed. However, I had a picture taken of me in front of the White House. That day was our first real snow day in DC as well. We had about an inch of powder. It was beautiful and seeing President Obama up close was awesome. Being in DC is amazing.

The White House

INSTALLMENT EIGHT

December 2010

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activities. I have so many things to report. The Einstein Fellows spent a day at USA Today in McLean, VA. We learned about its educational programs, toured the facilities, and heard from a few of the reporters on staff. I was not aware of the extent of USA Today’s educational materials and programs. If you’ve never been to the website, here’s the link: http://www.usatoday.com/educate/homesplash.htm?POE=FOOTER. From there, you can locate a link to the Education page at the bottom of every page on the USA Today website. 

Arne Duncan

I attended a public event featuring Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussing school funding challenges. One of the highlights included rethinking the structure and delivery of education: reducing waste, doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t, rethinking our policies on seat time, overuse of special education, and the practice of compensating teachers by their credentials. Ideas including varying class sizes by subject, or skill of teachers, consolidating bus routes, closing schools that are losing money, and deploying central office staff to schools to interface with parents were suggested. In addition, it was brought up that there is not enough discussion about dysfunctional school boards’ impact on delaying or sabotaging educational progress in some districts. Many of us can say “Amen” to that!

One of the most exciting events I’ve attended while in Washington took place on November 19th. The National Academy of Engineering and ITEEA jointly hosted a meeting to discuss a proposed revision of Standards for Technological Literacy. The exciting part of this meeting was the number of ITEEA participants sitting at the table. As you can see in the photo below, ITEEA’s curriculum areas were wellrepresented. During this meeting, break-out groups discussed various aspects of STL, and then we reconvened to report out. The end result of this endeavor was to provide ITEEA with enough ideas to move forward with the revision process. 
ITEEA members at NAE meeting 11.19.10.jpg

I met with a member of the Department of Education to discuss the T and E in STEM. Some concerns from the Administration are how to best identify the T and E to the education community and public, since technology is a word that is used to describe many things, and engineering and technology are not clearly delineated in the minds of many people.  If you have ideas that can clarify the latter, please contact me.

At another policy forum, the topic was school reform. Our current education model is based on a rigid system that’s been in place for over 100 years. There are currently some successful new models showing innovation and improvement because those schools have been allowed to try things and reflect on their effectiveness. However, the word “innovation” is still a dirty word among most in education administration. Some education experts feel the medical school model is one that should be used to rework education’s training model. Questions about whether teacher prep programs are out of touch, whether certification is necessary (certification doesn’t prove effectiveness; performance on the job does), and whether reform can take place unless a change in how the money is distributed takes place. The consensus was that unless states are willing to undergo a total reworking of their educational systems, change is not likely to happen.

The first week of December I attended the Association of Career and Technical Education conference in Las Vegas. I was excited to be able to visit with some of my Arizona colleagues there. The conference workshops were varied. I attended several dealing with education policy and understanding Washington politics (as if that’s even possible!). A couple of workshops introduced me to CTE’s version of Technology Teacher Training. Another very insightful workshop was on reaching urban youth and introducing them to engineering careers. I met several very interesting people who I’ve already had contact with since the conference. I also met some slot machines that were only interested in taking my money!

PBS NewsHour hosted a digital Town Hall meeting at the Newseum (the news museum in DC), featuring PBS NewsHour newscasters HariSreenivasan and Gwen Ifill, interviews with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, author Tom Friedman (The World is Flat), Angel Gurría, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),and Robert D. Atkinson, President of The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. It was a unique experience to sit in the audience during a live Town Hall meeting. In many of the scenes, I was directly behind those being interviewed (see the picture). One of the main reasons for the meeting was to announce the U.S.’s results on the 2009 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The PISA results were announced internationally THAT day). The PISA assessment is a test administered every three years to a cohort of 15 yearolds in 65 countries, assessing how far students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. The results of the assessment ranked the U.S. in 14th place in reading (“average performer;” basically no change since 2000), 17th place in science (“average performer”), and 25th in math (“low performer;” the same ranking as in 2003). Interpretation was provided for why the U.S. numbers are the way they are.  First, even though scores in two of the three reading categories were average, in the third category, reflect and evaluate the scores ranked “high performer.” This was good news because it shows that U.S. students aren’t focusing on retrieval  or interpretation, but on application of the material read, which is EXACTLY what we teach them to do! Since this report is VERY important for every school and teacher, I want to provide a few more details. PISA data was not collected for individual states. It was suggested to do so (expensive, though) to indicate which states have underperforming students. This would help us to be able to focus on those states with deficiencies. The test results showed that separating high-performing students from the rest of the student population does NOT guarantee success. High-performing students are a result of systems that put money into teacher salaries. The U.S. has a dropout rate of 25%; it’s 40%-60% for Hispanic and Black youth. Disadvantaged students are more apt to do poorly on the assessments; schools that treat these specialized populations and their families in a holistic environment see better results. Diversity, though, in general, is NOT an indicator of low performance in a school.
Perhaps THE most important result of the assessment is the fact that U.S. students make less progress as they get older. What this means is that any advances students make in the early grades disappear as they advance in the upper grades of grade school through high school. Forty percent of high school students need remediation of some kind but this INCREASES to 60% needing remediation (usually in language and math) when they reach community college! This really says something about our failing school system. A major result of the lack of improvement in the U.S. education system would be a possible continued recession. If we can’t provide educated workers, our economy will suffer.
Tom Friedman explained how the flat world has become even flatter since he wrote the book. He mentioned two rules of the flat world: 1) whatever can be done will be done; and 2) competition is between you and your imagination. What he meant was that there is nothing holding back ingenuity because the Internet has made it possible for entrepreneurs to get all their needs met through online offerings. They are not limited to brick-and-mortar settings or city limits, business hours (most Internet businesses are 24/7), or locating qualified help. THIS is what our students are facing and need preparation for.

Comparison of U.S. students to other countries has frequently been criticized as comparing apples to oranges. However, the PISA assessment is the fairest measurement so far. That’s why the results are so powerful as a measure of education system effectiveness. 

You can watch the full Town Hall video at: http://www.theinnovationeconomy.org/_layouts/IEC/Multimedia/EducationForInnovationDigitalTH.aspx
If you would like to look at some of the sample PISA assessment questions, check them out at: http://www.pisa.oecd.org/pages/0,3417,en_32252351_32236130_1_1_1_1_1,00.html.

One last note:  I attended a scientific presentation at the French Embassy. (Many embassies present research on a variety of topics.) It was an interesting report of African paleontological/archaeological findings of human and ape fossils. Afterwards, the audience was treated to wine and appetizers. Life is good!


INSTALLMENT SEVEN

November 2010

Terrie at NSF Poster Session.jpgThe National Science Foundation holds a reception each fall for the Einstein Fellows to allow NSF staff a chance to meet us. Fellows create a poster highlighting their experiences in the classroom, community, and at NSF. This poster session was held on October 26. The posters will be displayed in our offices for the remainder of the year. 

NSF and Advanced Technological Education (ATE) held a conference in DC the last few days of October that I was able to attend. The conferencehighlighted those community colleges who have received NSF grants. It was interesting to hear how community colleges are reaching out to students at their level, and to high schools, in order to promote training. Many of the highlighted programs would be those we’d consider CTE-type courses. These colleges are doing a fabulous job of training students for the technologicallyskilled positions our workforce needs. 

Einstein Fellows also spent a day at The National Academies (NA). The NA are the nation’s advisors on science, medicine, and engineering. The purpose of the Academies is to advance science and technology, to advise the government on policy for science, engineering, and health care, and the application of science and engineering to policy. The National Academy of Science (NAS) was mandated in 1863 to impact “science and the arts” (read technologies for arts). The NA take information already produced, synthesize and evaluate it, and generate a report. Some governmental agency will request a study, and they’ll do it (and charge them for doing it, because, even though they are mandated, they received no funding). Their responsibility is to “tell truth to power.” We heard from representatives of the areas within the NA:  NAS, NAE (Engineering), National Research Council (NRC:  the group who produce the reports within the NA), and the NA Press. 

One of the most influential STEM reports to have been recently released is the PCAST report, released in September.  PCAST stands for President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The PCAST report (draft) was entitled Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future. At each of the PCAST meetings, there is a focus of discussion topics, and a public comment opportunity. I was provided the privilege of speaking for two minutes to the committee and the main focus of my comments was to direct the committee to the fact that the T in their report actually stood for computer science, not technology.  In addition, I pointed to a NAE publication called Technically Speaking, which defines technology as “the process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants.” I also mentioned that the 2014 NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment also addresses technology using this definition. I pointed out that computer science, aka educational technology, is an integral part of all four STEM fields, and should not be treated as the T. Lastly, I asked them to revise the definition of the T in STEM to reflect the already-defined T: technology. The entire PCAST committee meeting was webcast and can be viewed online. My comments are about 9:52 into the comment section.  Here’s the link:  http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/pcast/101104/default.cfm?id=12947&type=flv&test=0&live=0

One of the NSF Program Officers (someone who oversees grant proposals), asked me to put together a survey of the Einstein Fellows to determine whether or not they used informal education (IE) resources to supplement their formal curriculum. The results were very interesting. As a result, I have assembled a similar survey that will be available for participation by IdeaGarden and Children’s Council of ITEEA members.  If you are a member of either of these groups, please help by participating in the survey. If you don’t know what IE is, you’ll know by the end of the survey! The link to the survey will be arriving by email through those groups.

By now, you should have surmised that DC is a city of acronyms. It is also a city of Fellows. The Einstein Fellows have met Fellows from the Department of Education (DOEd) and Science and Technology Policy Fellows from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). We talk common concerns, discuss our viewpoints on familiar issues, and make important contacts. Opportunities for get-togethers occur frequently. 

Recently, I met with some representatives from PBS NewsHour. As NSF grant recipients in the past, they had a connection with my sponsor and met me at a recent NSF discussion on the Gulf Oil spill. They wanted a teacher’s perspective on their education website called NewsHour Extra. The site is intended for teachers and students. There are reports,and also lessons plans,based upon recent news stories. There are also opportunities for students to participate on the site in a section called Student Voices. Check it out at http://PBS.org

In my spare time, I’ve had a chance to visit Gettysburg National Military Park and hosted the first meeting of an EF women’s book study where we’re studyingThe Art of War for Women. One of the teachers from my school in Peoria, AZ was in DC for a family event this past weekend and we were able to get together to catch up on school and personal goings-on. I have family arriving next weekend.

If what I’m doing sounds like something you’d enjoy, applications are being accepted for Einstein Fellowships for the 2011-2012 school year at http://www.trianglecoalition.org/fellows/einapp.htm

Terrie at Gettysburg Park.JPG

INSTALLMENT SIX

October 2010

Life as an Einstein Fellow can get very complicated. There are your duties with your assignment at your agency or on the Hill, all of the scheduled Einstein events, plus all of the opportunities that come at you on a daily basis. Many opportunities have to be bypassed because they conflict with other opportunities.  It comes down to what priorities you’ve set for yourself while in Washington. 

In my position at NSF, I have several responsibilities. One is to assist the team that oversees the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). This program was established in 1983 and is managed by NSF but overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In October, NSF hosts the State Coordinators for this program to update them on any changes and to offer assistance in applications and the selection process for the program. One of MY first questions was “What about technology and engineering teachers?”When the program was established over 20 years ago, there was no idea at the time that there would be a T and E emphasis in the future. 

The response to my question was that PAEMST award can be applied forby teachers of technology and engineering education. The description of the award requirements is going to be focusing on math and science lessons rather than just teachers. So, if you have a great tech edor engineering lesson that focuses on math or science aspects (as most of our lessons do), you can apply.  I hope some ITEEA members take advantage of this. It would be a great way to let others know that technology and engineering education is true STEM integration. Nominations are open at http://www.paemst.org . You may nominate someone or self-nominate. If you need any assistance in the application process, you may contact me. The NSF Program Officer for PAEMST has also offered her assistance for anyone needing help.

Another responsibility of mine is to assist my program sponsor. She oversees grants that have to do with Informal Science Education. This program addresses learning that takes place outside of formal settings, such as films, museums, after-school programs, etc. All of the IMAX films that have been funded by NSF are in her portfolio. Programs such as Fetch!andDesign Squad are also in her portfolio. Cool, huh? One project recently completed is a four-part NOVA program called Making Stuff. The subject matter is materials science. I was fortunate to be able to attend a preview screening. Host David Pough writes a technology column for the New York Times. He is very personable and makes the program very watchable. When the programs are aired, let your students know. They will enjoy the humor and engaging topics. Programs begin airing January 19, 2011 on PBS.
                                                              
Earlier in the month I attended an event entitled “System Failure:  Why is K-12 Computer Science Education Fading as the Digital Economy Grows?” at the National Press Club. The event was held to announce the Computing in the Core Coalition and to discuss the state of computer science education. Among the panelists were a former Lockheed Martin CEO, a current Vice President at Google, a high school teacher who talked up the importance of CS as a graduation requirement in her district, and a CEO at the National Center for Women and Information Technology. A joint agreement among all the panelists was that computer science has a place within all the STEM areas, not just as a stand-alone. 

The National Academy of Sciences sponsors a group of teachers called the Teacher Advisory Council (TAC). They meet in Washington each year to discuss matters important to the Academies and to obtain feedback from classroom teachers. The Einstein Fellows were invited this year to discuss how we could collaborate on matters of national importance. One suggestion by the TAC was to establish a STEM Master Teacher Corp. Other topics under discussion were the benefits of teacher voices in policy discussions, effective STEM practices in schools (a committee will hold a workshop on this in late April 2011), and the suggestion that TAC and the Einstein Fellows work on connecting their efforts to classrooms. 

I attended a panel discussion on Science and Society: Global Challenges on Meeting the Global Energy Demand, sponsored by Georgetown University and Science in the Public Interest. One of the concepts discussed was that it is better to conserve energy than it is to improve efficiency. Another was that there is not yet enough public outcry for energy changes to be a priority in this country. It was heartening to see the number of young people (in their 20s) stepping up to ask questions. There are a surprising number of Fellows in various agencies here in Washington; Einstein Fellows are just one such group.While Einstein Fellows can be any age (and most of us are seasoned educators), some Washington fellowships focus on college-age students, or recent college graduates. If they are any indication of who may be leading our future, we’ll be in good hands. I know a lot of us have said “Our world is lost if these kids are in control of our future,” referring to some of our students! There really is hope, and I’ve seen it here. 

NSF holds a three-day “boot camp” for new employees and I attended it this month. The event is held at a property in West Virginia called The Woods. What a beautiful setting! Attendees spent most of the time learning about the NSF community, many of the important divisions within NSF, and lots of discussion about grant proposals since that’s NSF’s primary work. This was a great opportunity to get to know people from all over NSF. 

The weekend following the trip to boot camp, a group of Fellows traveled to Green Bank, West Virginia to see the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and their radio telescopes (photo). I finally got the opportunity to really enjoy the WV outdoors. The leaves were changing colors and the Observatory setting provided lovely views. There was also time for a short drive on the property to look for fossils. We learned how the radio telescopes work and how to determine what the signals mean. In the evening the skies provided a clear view (through a regular telescope) ofa nebula, Jupiter and her moons, and a few other astronomical phenomena. 

On October 21-22, the Triangle Coalition (the organization that oversees the Einstein Fellows) held a two-day conference to discuss STEM issues. Some familiar faces were in attendance, including Kendall Starkweather and Bill Bertrand. Two members of subcommittees from the House Committee on Science and Technology and the House Education and Labor Committee were present to speak. I stood up to address why technology and engineering were being left out of the STEM discussions by those two committees. The response was that they’re trying to look at STEM from all sides. Most of those making decisions in any agency or on the Hill have not been in K-12 classrooms since they graduated, know nothing about teacher training (and yet make all sorts of assumptions about teacher quality), and purport to represent all STEM areas. The various groups reporting during the conference got quite an earful from the Fellows. I made some important contacts during the conference and will follow up to meet with some of those in positions to listen to my viewpoint. Wish me luck!

October 23-24, 2010 was the weekend for the inaugural US Science and Engineering Festival here in Washington. There was a very good turnout. I scouted all the exhibits on Saturday and volunteered on Sunday. I even ran into a very familiar face (photo). In conjunction with the Festival, many events city-wide had been held during the past two weeks. One event I attended was a special Teacher Night at the Smithsonian American History Museum. They had lots of displays from many organizations and museums throughout the DC area, and opened the museum for viewing. On a display about Thomas Edison, there’s this quote by Edison: “I am not a scientist; I am an inventor.” GO EDISON! 

Other things I’m currently working on are a speaker proposal for an online forum to be held sometime before the holidays, compiling some data on Informal Science Education grants at NSF for my sponsor, hosting a book discussion for the Einstein Fellows ladies,  and proclaiming the T and E in STEM whenever and wherever possible.

 

Terrie and Mike.JPG


INSTALLMENT FIVE

October 2010

So much has happened in the last two weeks since I started the Fellowship. Those of us who are Fellows at the National Science Foundation (NSF) received our initial training on September 7th. We then each reported to our “office.” My sponsor selected a fabulous office for me, next to a window wall. You have to understand that windows are PRIME real estate in office buildings, so I am very happy to be able to have lots of light and a view. My office nameplate identifies me as an Einstein Fellow. 

During the first week at NSF I sat in on some virtual grant panels. Panelists evaluating grant applications call in and discuss their reviews of preliminary grant applications. Panels are a constant at NSF, since funding grant proposals is NSF’s primary function. I also attended three other meetings. NSF is divided into directorates, divisions, and clusters. Each has its own meetings; some weekly and some only monthly. If there’s an event or major presentation coming up, meetings might be closer together. There are a lot of divisions within the directorate I’m assigned to, so there are many different areas of specialization to learn about. All the usual “getting settled” things like getting my computer, printer, and phone set up, getting oriented to the floor I’m on and important places within the building, and giving my office my personal touch were also part of the first week. Washington and the surrounding cities are on high alert for emergency situations. Evacuation training is an important part of each major employer’s new employee training, and especially government employers. I attended that training during the first week, as well.

Since then, I’ve attended a few more meetings, but also had some great experiences outside of NSF. As Fellows, we can attend hearings, conferences, and other events in and around Washington, DC during our work day. I attended a forum on the Activated Science Learner, and an event called the Future of the Profession: A New Learning Ecology for Teachers or Students. The Fellows spent a special day at the Library of Congress. We had extraordinary attention given us in touring the LOC. We were shown the vast educational resources available from the LOC website, and heard some wonderful stories of the people who were involved with establishing the Library. Besides the special Fellows functions we attend, there are always events going on that beg attention. Last week, I attended a special book discussion at the National Archives.
  

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer shared his views of experiences on the Court and provided his take on some important Supreme Court decisions. This week, there was a panel discussion at the National Archives to discuss “The State of the Constitution:  What Americans Know.” The results of a national survey were shared. No real surprises, as you can imagine, except that there were a number of responses from those surveyed who said we should have a new constitution! The panelists (noted journalists, educators, and experts) said they believed the Constitution was working just fine. The National Bookfest is another event that I attended over the weekend.

Besides ALL of that, this area is a treasure-trove of museums, venues, and national parks. I’ve been to the Civil War Battleground at Manassas, VA. I’ve visited:  the Capitol, Smithsonian Castle and Museums, National Portrait Gallery and American Museum of Art, the Supreme Court, and other well-known sites in Washington. Last weekend, there was an event I attended at the Nationals Ballpark called “Opera in the Outfield.” While the Kennedy Center held a performance of a Verde opera, it was simulcast to the ballpark. The event was free and attendees could enjoy the opera on the jumbotronin an outdoor setting. There will be plenty to keep me busy in the months to come.The Fellows have a weekend social trip planned in October to see the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV.

A couple of observations:  there are many voices who are talking policy regarding STEM issues. Technology and engineering are getting more coverage. I’m optimistic that we’ll be seeing more emphasis on those areas as new policy develops. Second, every teacher should be taking the time to follow what is happening in Washington, DC as it pertains to educational policy. Teacher quality is a huge focus. You can do this as easily as signing up to receiveWashington Post briefings online. I get their headlines on my MSN home page.


INSTALLMENT FOUR

September 2010
The first days of the fellowship were crammed with introductions and information. Because there were some Fellows who returned for a second year, there are 32 of us. We got to know one another better this first week and began what I know will be some lifelong friendships. The group had an official picture taken at the Einstein sculpture and we each had our pictures taken there, too. Over the three days of introductory training, there was a lot of information on what the fellowship was about, what kinds of things we’ll be getting to do as a group, what opportunities there will be that we can all take advantage of, and a myriad of details on the ins and outs of DC. These included an introduction to how policy is introduced and enacted, the dos and don’ts of DC ethics and interoffice communications, etiquette (or, how not to open your mouth and insert foot!), and in-depth information on what our agencies actually do and how it fits into the overall picture of the government. We also had a panel that had the directors from NCTM, NSTA, and ITEEA. Kendall Starkweather perhaps gave the most interesting talk because the majority of the Fellows were science teachers and had not heard of ITEEA or the difference between technology education and educational technology. It was clear he was not going to let the math and science directors forget that there was more than the M and S in STEM!  

Einstein Sculpture
With Kendall Starkweather in DC

 


INSTALLMENT THREE

August 2010
My June prediction was correct: by mid-July I had found a place to live in DC. It required a turn-around trip from Arizona to DC, but it was worth it. My eventual location was in neither of the two places I had been looking at, but close to one. The selected location (Navy Yard area in SE Washington) has everything one could want: easy freeway access, easy local transportation access, a view of the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument, a McDonald’s on the corner, and an MLB stadium four blocks away. OK, maybe not everything for everyone!  

Backtracking a bit, after my mid-July housing trip to DC, I had one more DC trip in store before my move.  I was selected to serve on a National Science Foundation grant panel. I reviewed seven grants, all geared toward involvement of underserved populations in computing careers or areas of science and math involvement. Approximately ten panelists met for a day and a half reviewing the pros and cons of each application, based upon designated criteria. Most of the panelists were from differing backgrounds (some teaching, some nonprofits, some business), which provided unique perspectives of the same grant applications. When you’re considering granting hundreds of thousands of dollars, the process gets quite picky. However, we selected our top choices, and the rest was up to the NSF to complete and decide on final recipients. Since grants are the main focus of the NSF, the ability to participate in this process prior to starting my fellowship was a huge advantage. 

The big move was scheduled for the first week of August. I actually had two big moves, as half my household had to be moved to a storage facility and the other half was to be moved to DC. Saying goodbye to Arizona was not traumatic, as temperatures were in the 100s. My goodbye to Arizona came from Flagstaff, as I spent the first night on the road with my son and daughter-in-law. I spent the next four full days on the road, arriving in DC on the fifth day. 

TEN days later, my mover finally delivered my worldly goods, and I was able to get off the air mattress and onto a real bed. During those ten days, however, I checked out the local transportation system in detail, spent time seeing some sites, located my bank, got a library card and checked out books to read to help me fill my time, located the nearby grocery stores, attended a Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game, and met some of my apartment neighbors. I’m on the ninth floor of a twelve-floor apartment building. It’s quite a change from a three-bedroom suburban home. 

The most memorable thing I’ve done so far was to attend a performance of the U.S. Army Band. They played a concert outdoors at the base of the Washington Monument. Their primary offering for that evening was the 1812 Overture. I’d seen the performance on TV but had wanted to see it in person. There were REAL cannons that were fired at the end of the piece. It was a magnificent performance. 

One week to go before the first “official” day of the Fellowship. I have some things to do to prepare myself for the position (lots of reading), and then it begins!


INSTALLMENT TWO

June 2010
My first experience as an Einstein Fellow took place June 27-30, 2010. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship, there was a summit held in Washington, DC. The E20 Summit’s purpose was to bring together Fellows from the 20 years of the program to discuss experiences and issues relating to STEM topics. A summary of the issues and suggestions discussed was then to be distributed to congressional offices for possible policy initiation. (Some of the Fellows personally delivered this policy statement the day after the Summit.)

About 80 former and current Fellows attended. I really appreciated hearing about the previous Fellows’ experiences. They varied according to the offices each worked for. One worked on the Hill with (then) Senator Obama. He is fortunate to now hold a position in the Education Department and advises (now) President Obama. WOW! 

Only about one-third of the Fellows went back to the classroom. These stories were often disheartening. While some schools welcomed their teachers back, some felt that the Fellows were now “above” teaching in their school and didn’t want them back! Instead of embracing what the teachers could contribute with their insights and experiences, some of their colleagues shunned them or looked at them with contempt for wanting to do more than the status quo at their schools and in their districts.

The other two-thirds of the Fellows had other options after their initial year as a Fellow. Some were invited to spend a second year as a Fellow in the same office. Others made some fabulous contacts and were offered jobs within the agencies where they spent their Fellowship or at other agencies. One of the benefits of the Fellowship, I was told, was the many contacts you make. These contacts were ones that Fellows benefitted from well beyond their year as a Fellow.

Although I spent a day and a half looking for housing, I was not successful.  I did, however, decide on two specific locations where I would focus my search.  There are lots of places to rent; they’re just very expensive, in general.  I am confident I’ll have housing secured before mid-July.  The job begins at the end of August.

One thing I realized after this weekend at the E20 Summit was that being selected as an Einstein Fellow is perhaps THE most prestigious position a teacher can hold in this country. A Fellow is looked upon as an expert in their field, and the agencies selecting you hold you in very high esteem. 

To say that I am extremely excited to move to the DC area and begin what I know will be an extraordinary year is an understatement. I look forward to sharing my experiences with my ITEEA colleagues. 


INSTALLMENT ONE

The First Steps
One of the best things I’ve discovered about ITEEA is the IdeaGarden listserv. During the past few years, some of our collective conversations have centered on the importance of ITEEA members making a difference in their communities and professions. Although I have been a voice on my campus, in my district, and in my state, I’ve often wondered how I could do more. So, in the fall of 2009, when someone in the Garden passed along the information regarding an opportunity to apply for the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship, I decided my time to act was now. The Einstein Fellowship allows primary and secondary teachers of science, math, or technology a chance to work with federal agencies in Washington, DC, such as the NSF, NASA, DOE, NIST, and Congress. The goal is to provide our unique K-12 perspective to guide programs and/or legislation that affects education on a national level.   (See program details at: http://www.trianglecoalition.org/fellows/einapp.htm )

I spent about three weeks preparing the application in December and selected those who I believed would provide excellent references. Once the application was completed and submitted, the wait began! About mid-February I received word that I was one of the 50 (out of over 200) being considered. Those 50 would have their applications reviewed by the various agencies in search of Fellows for the 2010-2011 term and those candidates would be flown to Washington, DC in March for interviews. A week later I learned I was going to be offered the opportunity to interview with three divisions within the National Science Foundation. Thirty-eight of us made this important cut. Only 20 positions would be offered.

The trip to Washington, DC in March was just a few days before the ITEEA Conference in Charlotte. Meeting the other candidates was amazing. Each one had made outstanding contributions in their fields. I felt honored, but at the same time, humbled. We had time to speak with the 2009-2010 Fellows and toured the DC and Arlington areas to see neighborhoods for possible housing locations. We were also able to tour the NSF offices. All the interviews took place at the Department of Energy. A large reception room was prepared for us. It was here where we prepared our notes for our interviews, ate lunch, killed time, and chatted with each other as we returned from our interviews. After my interviews were finished, I was allowed to leave. The following day I was on a plane to Charlotte.

Many of the interviewers were going to the NSTA conference after the interviews, so we had been told that offers for Fellowship positions would be made by phone in approximately 10 days. As you can imagine, this waiting period seemed to stretch on for eternity! My phone call came on the 11th day. It was good news:  I was being offered a Fellowship with the NSF Lifelong Learning Cluster. 

In the following months I will be relating reports on my preparations to move to Washington, DC for the next school year and my experiences as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, a position I will hold with honor, as I represent my district, my state, my fellow technology teachers, and ITEEA. 


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