Ritenour teachers talk best practices at Interface

Math and science educators from across the state gathered in mid-Missouri for the Interface Conference to learn best practices for preparing their students for a STEM-focused future. Among these was a group of teachers from Ritenour School District in St. Louis, attending as presenters to share their experiences with inquiry-based science and how it transformed their classrooms.

The teachers, participants in a two-year science education certificate program from Washington University in St. Louis, presented on a variety of topics from teaching waves in elementary to the different levels of inquiry and how to engage your students in deep discussion. Paul Markovits, science educator for the Institute for School Partnership (ISP), along with several guest instructors, has taught the cohort over the past two years.

“It is personally rewarding for me to see these teachers grow in their professional lives,” Markovits said. “This presentation enabled them to reflect on their own professional growth and gave them a leadership opportunity.”

As the cohort nears graduation day this spring, the teachers’ new knowledge was put to the test at Interface. Melanie Turnage, a current cohort member from Iveland Elementary, presented at Interface alongside Meghan McNulty, a past cohort member and finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

In discussing her reasons for participating in the cohort, Turnage said that she had always loved science but that she wanted to study it with more depth so that she would have the background knowledge to pass along to her students. “I wanted to honor science in my classroom and teach it accurately,” Turnage said.

Melanie Turnage, teacher at Iveland Elementary and participant in the Ritenour science education cohort, practices an inquiry-based lesson with her fellow classmates.

At Interface, Turnage and McNulty presented a variety of methods for teaching the complex concept of waves in the elementary classroom. To do this, they used their experience with MySci, an inquiry-based science program developed by the ISP. Through the presentation, they passed on their knowledge to over 20 science teachers from across Missouri.

Turnage explained that because she was one of only three teachers from her school selected to participate in the cohort that she felt that she had a responsibility to pass along her newfound knowledge. “Since we are teacher leaders, [the Interface Conference] is our way of passing on the knowledge to others.”

Another pair, Christina Hardie and Kristy Santinanavat also had the opportunity to pass on the knowledge that they gained through the cohort.

“I believe conferences like Interface are very important for teachers for their professional development,” Santinanavat said. “So often teachers get bogged down by data and curriculum and behavior and all kinds of other expectations. It is nice to have an opportunity to step back into the shoes of a learner and reflect and better ourselves for our students.

Santinanavat has stepped into the role of a learner over the past two years of participating in the science cohort, saying that it has helped her renew her love for science.

“I made some great friends, deepened my knowledge of science concepts and was able to incorporate what I learned and my renewed passion for science into my classroom.” Santinanavat said. “My kindergartners became scientists ready to learn and question because of my changed outlook.”

March 2015   |   by, Gennafer Barajas

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