When Fredonia Elementary fifth-grade teacher Sherrell Peacock joined a cohort last winter created in partnership with Stephen F. Austin State University, she was looking for a hands-on way to teach environmental science-ecosystems, environments, habitats, adaptions and behaviors.
“And I got exactly that,” she said.
Five Nacogdoches ISD teachers participated in the Texas Environmental Education Advisory Committee last spring. Peacock was joined by NISD teachers Coleman Hampton, Michelle Rodriguez, Rachel Rosson, and Joella Villanueva voluntarily attended professional development to continue their education in the specific content area, allowing them to complete at least 45 hours of professional development to earn certifications.
Hampton and Peacock received recognition for obtaining 45 hours; others have the opportunity to continue this fall in year two of the program. The teachers often worked after hours during the week or on the weekends to complete the course.
TEEAC assures that professional development for educators in the area of environmental education aligns properly with TEKS, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills that are used to guide the curriculum for the state’s public schools.
One exercise described by Peacock was the 100-inch hike, a study where the teachers received 100 inches of rope and a journal.
“We were to observe and record every living and non-living component we saw every 10 inches, and later research each part to see how it contributed to the environment,” she said. “This is perfect for native plants/ecosystems and interactions to build background knowledge that most of our students lack – for different ecosystems and environments we will come across in reading.”
The partnership between NISD and SFA is funded by the Montgomery Professorship, a program established to promote the teaching of humane education. Dr. Sarah Straub, SFA’s Assistant Professor in Education Studies, is required to take part in five projects over the course of the two-year Montgomery Professorship.
“Partnerships like this with SFA provide a way for our teachers to earn valuable professional development that can be applied in our classrooms,” said Dr. Jo Lynn Corley, NISD’s Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “We’re grateful for the extra work our staff put in last spring to make this happen as well as the investment from Dr. Straub.”
“We are honored to be in the partnership with SFASU and proud that our teachers experienced opportunities that will be applied to their practice to impact student learning,” Corley said.
Straub will continue this fall working one-on-one with the NISD teachers to implement a campus-based initiative.
“I made the decision to work exclusively with elementary science educators this year because this is where I personally saw a strong opportunity for successful implementation,” Straub said.