Starting last year, we launched a new initiative to establish Regional Teacher Communities (RTCs). The goal of these communities is to connect rural and under-resourced teachers of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. By doing so, we enhance and diversify STEM curriculum through mentorship, idea sharing, and resource provision — with a focus on engaging students in deeper science investigations more frequently throughout the year. Teachers have shared resources and experiences related to field projects, which include salmon fry releases, caddisfly larvae monitoring, and much more. Teachers use these field projects to help students develop their own research questions and learn to work with data.
We connect and engage these teacher communities with an array of meetings, trainings, and online resources. Perhaps more importantly, these new relationships help teachers support each other. Every community has a lead teacher, who provides local guidance to other teachers in that region. These teacher-leaders have been crucial to the success of this initiative.
“Participating in this community supported my classroom work because it created a support system and an accountability system,” said one participating teacher. “With 30 years of teaching experience, I know how easy and tempting it can be to carry on with what is comfortable. Getting out in the field with a new experience definitely challenged my comfort level.”
Just over a year later, the model is proving effective. Our Western Maine hub is thriving in its second year, as are the newer RTCs in the Hancock County, Washington County, and Midcoast communities
There are currently four Regional Teacher Communities established:
- The Western Maine RTC is comprised of 12 teachers from 11 schools in Franklin and Oxford counties and was the pilot program for the initiative.
- The Midcoast RTC is comprised of 9 teachers from 7 schools in Lincoln, Waldo, and Knox counties.
- The Hancock County RTC is comprised of 9 teachers in 8 schools.
- The Washington County RTC is comprised of 9 teachers in 6 schools.
Each RTC begins with a launch event that introduces participating teachers. The launch event grounds them in the themes and practices involved in authentic science investigations. After the launch, teachers participate in four-to-five additional meetings, each with a focus that caters to the interests of the group. These shorter meetings allow time to share lessons, ask questions, and brainstorm collectively.
As positive feedback accumulates, our education team couldn’t be more excited. Participating teachers cite increased student interest and positive learning outcomes in their praise of the program. We’re looking forward to seeing the community impact of these teachers’ efforts in the years to come.
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