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Gila County Superintendent Office Wins Grant to Train Science Teachers

Submitted by Roy Sandoval, Gila County Superintendent

Educators working in rural areas face a particular set of challenges that can make even the simplest of tasks a headache. Far-flung schools and dirt roads mean teachers and students are isolated from resources that urban schools take for granted.

The Gila County Superintendent’s office, however, is working to overcome these challenges, one grant at a time. Just recently, their team secured a $412,000 grant that will support raising student achievement in physical science county-wide. The grant’s focus area – physical science in grades three through eight – was selected as the target based on recent AzMERIT scores, which revealed that Gila County students could use a boost in this area. The funds will help move the needle on teachers’ knowledge of the subject area and give them more tools to teach force, motion and matter more effectively.

A cohort of 40 teachers will be chosen from among the eight school districts in Gila County. Over the course of 18 months, educators will receive 130 hours of training aimed at using visuals, discourse and hands-on learning. As the training partner, Northern Arizona University will conduct the training sessions on weekends, summer sessions and after-school meetings. In training these educators, the county estimates that it will indirectly reach more than 1,200 students in the first year alone.

This is a critical need, as many teachers never receive training on how to effectively teach science concepts. An understanding and appreciation of science will help the county to prepare students for life beyond high school while aiming to boost the economy in a high-poverty area.

To help enhance student learning, the Gila County Superintendent’s office will explore more opportunities for grant-based learning opportunities. There is already another program in the works with the Arizona Department of Transportation and Gila County Community College to engage with high school students on biofuels and land form imaging. Thegoal is to better support teachers and students to improve student achievement, and this will be a strong first step, according to Sandoval.

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