Each summer, teachers from middle and high schools participate in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. We sat down with this year’s cohort recently and discovered where their journeys have taken them. Get to know the new class.
- Jose Acosta teaches Physical Science and A.P. Physics at Cape Fear High School. Jose admitted he expected to have an experience in the lab that might go over his head. But after completing the RET program, he found the experience not only helpful but also insightful as the material was interesting and applicable to everyday lessons. The material and project were structured in a manner where he felt comfortable without wondering if he was heading in the right direction. Mentored by Professor Jacob Jones, his favorite part of the program was being able to work alongside research groups that showed him how to incorporate new content into his lesson plans. Jose credits the STEPS group for making both him and his partner feel welcome and right at home, and also offered different learning opportunities.
- Helenea Dawson teaches Earth Science, Chemistry, Anatomy, Biology, and Biology II. Before the RET program, Helenea expected to learn about what is new in her field. But she found herself in awe of everything, for example, she was surprised to learn about phosphorous and its importance. After completing the RET program, her experience with the curriculum presented her with more tools and resources for her students. Mentored by Nafisa Amin, her favorite part of the program was all of the hands-on experiences. As a year-round teacher, she felt accommodated by her school’s principal who supported her time split between her job and the RET program.
- Calista Foret is an NC State undergraduate math education major. As the only undergraduate student in this cohort, Calista’s initial expectation of the RET program was daily activity in the lab with lesson planning at the end of each week. She was pleasantly surprised to find a lot more free time than she expected with plenty of time to work on lesson plans. This proved to be a bonus because they took much longer than she expected. Calista also found many resources to assist with lesson planning. Mentored by Sam Zhao of the Zaucher Lab, her favorite part of the program was practicing individual experiments in the cleanroom. She shared that her “aha” moment was her slowly understanding the process of the materials, but she was really excited when she finally understood the fabrication process. Calista also felt confident about her poster and her ability to explain things and answer questions from visitors at the poster session. Calista shared several shoutouts: thanks to Gail Jones who made the program fun for everyone, Julianna who was very helpful with answering my questions about citations and lesson plans, and her mentor Sam Zhao, based in China, who answered her questions about the lab and the fabrication process.
- Chelsea George teaches Chemistry at Wakefield High School. Chelsea wasn’t really sure what to expect from the program at first. She knew it would be a whirlwind experience because of the short duration, so she was prepared for that but otherwise came in with an open mind. She felt the experience was fantastic, and far exceeded her expectations. Mentored by Elizabeth Trubchaninov in Professor Jones Lab, her favorite part of the program was the organization and intentionality of the program. In every activity and seminar, she felt it was valuable and well planned, which was very refreshing to feel like her time and experience were respected and prioritized and not bogged down with busy work. She also loved all the people she worked with in Science Education and in the lab. Everyone was so nice and welcoming and inspiring, which Chelsea found wildly refreshing. As a year-round teacher, she felt accommodated by her school’s principal who supported her time split between her job and the RET program.
What did you do last summer?
The RET program lasts for 5 weeks with follow-up during the academic year. Teachers receive a $5,000 stipend with additional funding available for curricular materials and travel for lesson plans. Open to US citizens only, teachers must participate for the entire program period. Participants required to attend all daily and weekly meetings, seminars, field trips, and workshops.
- Amy Gross teaches Mathematics at Cedar Ridge High School. Amy went into the program somewhat blind. She knew that the RET would be in a University lab working with nanotechnology and creating a lesson that she could bring back to the classroom. Amy was excited to learn how nanotechnology is utilized in the development of materials. Her lab was specific to creating nanowires and other structures that would react to sunlight to form types of fuel. Mentored by Samantha Litvin, her favorite part of the program was being in a different environment and routine than what she normally does. The program helped her learn applications of math and science that she can share with her students. Amy gives a shoutout to her lab partner, Madi, who must be just a fantastic teacher. They were fortunate to have a good mentor in Sam Litvin, with teaching and patience to show them what to do in the lab.
- Allison Kauffman teaches Chemistry at Chapel Hill High School. Allison expected to learn about complex nanoparticles and the equipment used. Her experience confirmed that nanotechnology felt much more accessible than she initially expected. She feels she will be able to implement the components of nanotechnology in her classroom. Mentored by Professor Erika Ford, her favorite part of the program was learning about things in a nano way, a way that students will also enjoy. Allison also feels more knowledgeable about resources in her area. Allison’s “aha” moment: “After having spent a LOT of time doing mineral baths of different lengths of different types of hemp fibers, we were able to visualize them using the VPSEM and see the deposition of solid particles on the fibers. We did this the week leading up to the poster presentation and I felt like I had actually done something that was meaningful to the work of the grad student I worked with.” Allison shared her own shoutouts to faculty and staff: “Toby Tung was super helpful in imaging the Hemp fibers using the VPSEM and shared a lot of info about AIF with us! Leah Bellcase did our XRD scans and showed us the different machines. Phillip Strader did a desktop SEM demonstration and told us how to set up a visit to the school. Prof. Ford was very present and checked in regularly with the other teacher and me. Hajara Babayo was so kind to let us be a part of her research! The rest of the Ford lab shared what they were working on with us which was cool to learn about! Gail Jones is so knowledgeable and clearly loves what she does! Of the grad students, I probably interacted the most with Kimberly and Julianna, but they were all amazing!”
Photos by Niki Jennings
The RET program lasts for 5 weeks with follow-up during the academic year. Teachers receive a $5,000 stipend for their work as an RET with additional funding available for curricular materials and travel for lesson plan/curriculum dissemination. The program is for US citizens only and teachers must participate for the entire period of the program. Participants are required to attend all daily and weekly meetings, seminars, field trips, and workshops. If you have questions, contact Dr. Maude Cuchiara or Dr. Gail Jones.