Thousands of Rio Grande Valley students will receive the positive impact of a new partnership established recently between The University of Texas-Pan American and Texas Instruments to form the Teacher Leader Cadre (TLC), an innovative training program that will instruct math teachers in state-of-the-art technology and innovative teaching methods using that technology.
Approximately 80 local seventh grade UTPA GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) math teachers from 28 middle schools completed the TLC's first 12-day training institute June 3. The teachers, identified by their districts as math leaders, will return to their schools and train their math peers in the latest technology and best teaching practices detailed in the training from TI. The goals of TLC training are to instruct teachers in new and innovative ways to effectively teach mathematics using technology and also to develop a Teacher Leader Community to support local, ongoing professional development needs.
According to the training program's developers, a cohort cadre approach helps teachers in gaining the confidence to use new teaching strategies and lessons as they incorporate the use of technology in their classrooms. TLC also develops teacher leaders that are capable of supporting long-term, systemic professional development needs and addresses adult learner concepts and effective ways of teaching.
Dr. Martha Cantu, UTPA GEAR UP director, said she has made a commitment to local school districts to provide various professional development opportunities for teachers that will impact students' success.
"GEAR UP opens the doors for students in terms of college awareness and access; furthermore, the UTPA GEAR UP Project grant objectives also include a professional development component. Our teachers are one of our most valuable resources, therefore they need to be kept abreast of technology, best practices, and research in their fields of study," she said.
The UTPA GEAR UP Project will provide each trained teacher with a class set of TI graphing calculators and the TI-Navigator System to supplement instruction. The TI-Navigator System allows real-time feedback to instantly assess student understanding. Designed to work with TI graphing calculators already in widespread use, the TI-Navigator System provides wireless communication between students' TI graphing calculators and the teacher's PC. This provides a great way to get students to experience the benefits of a whole new level of interactive learning and for teachers this means more engaged students. For administrators, the TI-Navigator System enables real-time, formative assessment and supports instructional strategies that research shows lead to improved student achievement. Francisco Arellano, who teaches at Ann Richards Middle School in La Joya finds the training relevant to helping students in his classes.
"The TI technology can help all students, but it goes a step further by helping populations like recent immigrants better understand math concepts by hands-on application through the graphing calculators. The Navigator System allows me to see how students are doing and identify problem areas in their steps to solving the problem," he said.
The principal at McAllen's Brown Middle School, Yvette Cavazos, said she was excited about the UTPA GEAR UP Project and Texas Instruments partnership.
"This partnership will enhance math instruction and motivate students with learning that is fun and exciting," she said.
In September 2006 a new group of approximately 100 eighth grade teachers will begin the training with each participant again receiving a class set of TI graphing calculators and the TI-Navigator System to supplement instruction.
"This partnership will provide a new group of teachers each year with equipment and training enabling a sustained effort to prepare students to succeed in math and to prepare to enter and succeed in college," Cantu said.