Kent professors reach out to help area educators teach

Michele Roehrig

Even teachers need to be taught.

Four professors from Kent State received renewal grants from the Ohio Board of Regents for 2005 to help grade school and middle school teachers teach science classes more effectively.

Claudia Khourey-Bowers, an assistant professor at the Kent Stark Campus, and Christopher Fenk, an associate professor at the Tuscarawas Campus, received a $132,000 grant for the second year to teach conceptual chemistry.

The grant enables Khourey-Bowers and Fenk to teach a five-credit, graduate-level course to area grade school and middle school teachers that will further their knowledge in chemistry. The course also enables them to learn effective strategies for teaching the material.

Likewise, Wendy Sherman, a Kent State assistant professor, and Stanley Christensen, a retired Kent State professor, were awarded more than $128,000 to teach operation physics.

The science courses were developed in the late 1980s by Doris Simonis to help teachers with no formal science background.

“Many middle school teachers in Ohio are finding they are required by state standards to teach ‘hands-on’ science,” Fenk said. “But they do not have very much, if any, laboratory science experience. That’s where ‘conceptual chemistry’ comes in.”

The participating school districts are active partners in the course, Khourey-Bowers said. The superintendents encourage their teachers to attend. The chemistry course is attended by Canton-area schools because it is taught at the Kent Stark campus.

The physics course is hosted by Ravenna High School, and in turn, the course directors reserve spots for the school’s teachers.

The course costs $175 for each teacher but most of the cost is covered by the grant.

The teachers will begin the course in July with a week-long training session. Once the school year begins, they will meet once a month until spring. The schedule allows the teachers to utilize the strategies they’ve learned in the course in their own classrooms.

Other than knowledge, the teachers are also given hundreds of dollars worth of supplies and materials for their classrooms.

The course is also rewarding for the professors. Khourey-Bowers said she gets a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that a lot of research-based ideas are actually being implemented in Ohio classrooms.

“My greatest satisfaction,” Fenk said, “comes from seeing former conceptual chemistry students using these teaching strategies in their classrooms to provide new opportunities for their own students. Many times, these former students earn formal recognition for their efforts in the classroom.”

Scott Houmard, a former conceptual chemistry student from the New Philadelphia School District, was recently awarded the 2005 Educator of the Year award by the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce.

Although this is not the first year the program received state funding, Sherman said there is no guarantee it will get funded every year.

“It’s a great program for Kent State,” Sherman said. “I hope we get to continue it for awhile.”

Contact graduate studies reporter Michele Roehrig at [email protected].