On July 20, 2003, fourteen LA GEAR UP math and science teachers arrived in Ruston, LA at the La. Tech campus for a week of exploring, investigating, analyzing, graphing and did I mention - eating! A good time was had by all as well as an in depth look at the EPAS program and new strategies for teaching and assessment. Science teachers learned new ways to incorporate math in reporting results of experimental designs and math teachers learned new scientific methods to collect data to analyze! Both science and math teachers agreed that the strategies would enhance real life applications for their students. Doris Gerhart, a science teacher at Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School admitted, "I have long had a phobia of math. I have taken several courses trying to combat this problem. This class took me along way along that road. I am feeling more confident class by class. The graphing and interpreting data was an excellent example of my triumph!"
Most arrived with little understanding of EPAS and everyone left with new insight on how to analyze test data and how to use test data to improve student learning. Debby McMurry, a fourth grade math and science teacher at Ward III School in Winnsboro reported, "I had heard the words "LA GEAR UP" but only had an idea of what it meant. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this workshop because I can go back and explain what EPAS means to the other grades. I realize we need to work together as a whole school in order to raise our test scores. (It's not just a grade level problem) I know we will look at the WHOLE."
In addition to enhancing their own teaching skills, participants left armed with a variety of activities and strategies to work with coworkers in their school community. In the coming academic year, each participant will serve as a Learning Community Coordinator and recruit two Learning Partners in their area. Plans include meeting four hours each month, attending a half-day writing workshop in math and science and organizing and attending two workshops, one to be held this fall and one to be held this spring in their area. Sherri Stevens, a science teacher at Livonia High School said, "After attending this LA GEAR UP Program, I now know I can effectively lead a learning community group. This will not be a "boring" monthly activity, but an activity teachers can look forward to. Because of the assistance of the LA GEAR UP staff, I have an abundance of ideas and information."
The individual Learning Communities will be a part of a larger Learning Community through participation in blackboard communication throughout the year. By responding to assignments posted, asking questions, and sharing successes, participants will continue to keep in touch and grow with one another in their efforts to improve student learning. Melissa Fontenot, a middle school teacher from St. Johns Parish, is really fired up about staying in touch. "Looking forward to the continual communication via blackboard. This institute was incredible and so useful. A very motivating opportunity that I look forward to sharing with our faculty."
Larry Sylvest, a math teacher from Pine High School in Franklinton summed up the week by saying, "As usual, one of the best things about this kind of workshop is the acquaintances and friendships that are made with so many others who share some of the same hopes and fears and dreams and difficulties." As Candace Maiden packed up to head south to Clinton Middle School, she exclaimed, "I absolutely enjoyed myself this week. I can not remember being in a workshop in which I learned so much information and interacted this much. I think that this is the best part of your workshop. I will recommend this workshop to all of my colleagues and surrounding parishes. I am going to spread the word of this powerful, dynamic class. I developed a great understanding of EPAS. I am now ready to GEAR UP!!!!!!!"