Faculty & Staff mySci

ISP welcomes three new teacher leaders

This year, the Institute for School Partnership (ISP) welcomes three new teacher leaders to its team. Through a variety of opportunities, the ISP seeks to empower educators to lead inside and outside of their classrooms, giving them the resources and experiences they need to affect real change in their schools and communities.


Maplewood Richmond Heights teacher Chuck McWilliams is no stranger to science education.

Throughout his 22 years in the profession, teaching Biology, AP Biology and other life sciences courses, McWilliams has continually pushed himself to learn and do more.

McWilliams first engaged with the ISP during its days as Science Outreach in the early 2000’s through the Modern Genetics workshops. He went on to participate in a number of workshops and leadership opportunities with the ISP, eventually becoming a teacher in the MS in Biology program.

“For the past 4 years, I’ve spent my summers supporting and leading during the summer portion of the MS in Bio program,” McWilliams said. “From the early years until today, I have been continually impressed with the ISP. Everyone I’ve ever interacted with is so knowledgeable, kind, and wonderful to work with.”

Starting this year, McWilliams will transition into his new role as the co-director of the program. “I decided to take on this new role because I want others to experience the same wonderful things I was able to when I was a student,” McWilliams said. “I’m excited to hone my own leaderships skills and explore new ways to build on the successes of this great program.”


Over the next three years, Heather Essig will take on the role of bringing evolution education to teachers across St. Louis as the “David and Marilyn Kirk Teacher Fellow.” Essig teaches AP Biology and 6th grade science at Visitation Academy and has 12 years of education experience.

After a 15-year leave, Essig returned to teaching, instantly rekindling her love for education. “The Institute for School Partnership really helped me that first year get caught up on changes in biology that had occurred while I had been away from the classroom,” Essig said.  “The Modern Genetics materials were a lifesaver during that first year.”

As she gained more experience, Essig began participating in the ISP’s Evolution Education events, started by David Kirk, PhD. “Dr. Kirk is a wonderful educator who has given local teachers great opportunities to build relationships and learn about current science,” Essig said.

“Every time I attend, I learn amazing things that I can share with my students.”

In her new role as a Teacher Fellow, Essig will help organize and implement evolution education events and professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the year.

“The Evolution Book Club and Darwin Days have been excellent opportunities for me to deepen my understanding of the science of evolution, have helped me build relationships with other science teachers in the area, and have also enriched my lessons,” Essig said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the excellent teachers in the program and to helping new teachers benefit from all of the great resources available from Institute for School Partnership.”


In the late spring of 2015, the ISP selected Jeanne Norris as the first participant in the Teacher in Residence program. The position is designed to give educators an opportunity to better their skills in the areas of instructional practice, leadership and curricular development.

Norris taught for 5 years, most recently at Gateway STEM High School in the St. Louis Public School District.

There, Norris taught 11th and 12th grade Anatomy, Physiology and AP Biology. Her first interaction with the ISP was through the Master of Science in Biology program for educators. “Even though I was a new mom, the program sounded like a perfect fit for me, and I decided I had to do it!” Norris said.

In her time as a Teacher in Residence, Norris has taken part in the development of the new MySci 6-8 curriculum and the update of the MySci K-5 curriculum and has delivered professional development to a number of area teachers.

“Being Teacher in Residence has been an amazing opportunity.  In the short time I’ve been here, my knowledge concerning curriculum design, science outreach, and teacher professional development has grown exponentially.” Norris said.  “I am very grateful, and look forward to continuing to develop this knowledge to help teachers deliver excellent instruction to their students.”

October 2015   |  by, Gennafer Barajas

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