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ORAU virtual professional development reaches teachers nationwide

Registration open for upcoming workshops

Educators around the country had to make a huge pivot from the classroom to virtual learning environments when coronavirus pandemic protection measures closed schools. ORAU’s K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics team had to follow suit with this summer’s teacher professional development programs

It’s a big change that has been a major success, according to Jennifer Tyrell, ORAU K-12 section manager.

“Interest in teacher PD has surpassed our wildest expectations,” she said. “After having registration open for only one week, we have 330 teachers from 25 states and Canada who have registered for our workshops, which is absolutely fabulous!”

ORAU virtual professional development reaches teachers nationwide

By comparison, the last three years of in-person instruction saw about 200 teachers each year, almost all of whom were local to the Oak Ridge, Tenn., area. Tyrell said about that many local teachers have registered for virtual workshops, in addition to about 130 teachers and counting from outside the area.

“The need to go virtual has been great for us because we’re reaching all of these teachers who couldn’t attend our in-person workshops,” she said.

Veterans of ORAU’s summer professional development programs are likely to see some familiar faces, like Al Hazari, Ph.D., who will lead a session on colorful and sweet chemistry and several others, and Sherilyn Dawson, who will lead a session on coding. And there are several new instructors who Tyrell is excited to see lead their workshops.

Some of the workshops are so popular registration had to be closed and a wait list created. Digital Learning and Screencasting, where teachers share their device screens with students, are necessary skills for teachers who may have to continue teaching virtually when school resumes in the fall. Tyrell said they are hoping to add additional sessions for these workshops to meet the demand and also be able to schedule them at times that can accommodate teachers on the West Coast.

The professional development workshops kicked off on Monday, June 1, with a two-day program on design thinking led by Emily Butterfield, a Knox County Schools teacher. The workshop had 25 participants, who said in their evaluations that they enjoyed interacting with teachers from other states who have to teach to different educational standards.

Tyrell emphasized that while the workshops have gone virtual, interactivity is still important.

“We don’t want to have a workshop with 100 people on Zoom where teachers are just listening to a lecture. We want them to interact just as they would if they were in the classroom in MC-100,” she said.

Tyrell credits the entire K-12 team with helping organize and execute this year’s summer teacher professional development workshops. Because the move from in-person to virtual instruction happened so quickly, she said it has definitely been a team effort that paid off.

As for the future of virtual professional development, Tyrell hopes this year’s success proves that the need is there to continue offering virtual programming, perhaps in addition to in-person workshops.

Educators can still register for ORAU’s virtual professional development workshops by visiting oraustem.com.

About ORAU

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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