Tag Archives: Master of Arts in Teaching Program

Meet Professor Andrea Flores!

Andrea_FloresAndrea Flores will be an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Brown University starting this Fall 2016. Her research focuses on how Latino youth who participate in a college readiness program in Nashville, Tennessee conceptualize the value of higher education and civic engagement for themselves, their families, and their communities. In particular, Andrea focuses on how educational aspiration is tied to Latino youth’s senses of self and feelings of socio-civic inclusion in the United States. Andrea is also interested in the role of school-community partnerships in both facilitating persistence in school and reshaping public education. Her next project follows a group of students she previously worked with as they transition into private religious colleges.

Prior to graduate school, Andrea worked as a research assistant at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she worked on projects on youth’s online ethics and young people’s conceptions of trust. Her work at Project Zero inspired her to pursue graduate work related to adolescents and education. She received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Harvard University and her doctoral degree in anthropology at Brown University. An NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a grant from the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, and fellowships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation have supported her research. This fall, she will teach Education 1450, The Psychology of Teaching and Learning. As the sister of two elementary school teachers, she is very excited to be teaching in the MAT program. She is looking forward to getting to know the MAT students this fall and follow their progress during the year!

Dan Bisaccio Presents on Next Generation Science Standards

Dan HeadshotProfessor Dan Bisaccio, Director of Science Education, presented two workshops at the Rhode Island Science Teachers Association Conference this past weekend (March 12, 2016). His topics included: Using Backwards Design to Identify Instructional Sequences that Prepare Students for NGSS Assessments and Modeling a NGSS Science Lesson using Inquiry and Engineering Practices.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for a shift in teachers’ practices in teaching and assessment of science. It is crucial for science teachers to develop the knowledge and skills in creating and implementing instructional and assessment tasks that align with the NGSS.

Student Perspective: Allie Curry on Curriculum Development

Allie CurryAllie Curry is a current Master of Arts in Teaching student concentrating in Secondary English Education. During her time student teaching at Brown Summer High School, Allie discovered a passion for the backwards-design approach to curriculum development taught by the Brown MAT Program.

Allie was kind enough to share with us some of her thoughts and reflections on this approach to teaching. Read her words below!


“I often think of K–12 curriculum as too important. In the hotly contested era of the Common Core, the American public debates whether curriculum is too important to be left to states or too important to be promoted by the federal government. In some urban school districts, curriculum is viewed as too important to be developed by teachers in the community, and so many cities are purchasing boxed curricula.

The Brown MAT program has taught me that curriculum is too important in a different sense. Beginning last summer in the first days of the program, I learned an approach to curriculum design that centers around Essential Questions—challenging, relevant, and authentic questions we ask about the world—and understandings, which, in the discipline of English at least, are rarely simple answers. With my talented teaching partner (another MAT), I developed a unit for a book we would teach to a diverse classroom of 9th through 12th graders over the course of Brown Summer High School, a free summer enrichment program for Providence-area youth.

In the afternoons, we paused our planning to take a Secondary program-wide course that has greatly influenced my teaching. Literacy Across the Curriculum challenged me to rethink my understanding of literacy and create curriculum that reflects and supports the community I teach. (I’ve thought about that class a lot in the first days of February. Curriculum—culturally relevant curriculum, that is—is too important to designate only a month of the year to the accomplishments of Black Americans.)

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I posed the question in the picture above (“Does the identity of the authors we read matter?”), as a part of a unit I designed during my student teaching semester last fall at a suburban public school south of Providence, North Kingstown High School. In my student teaching semester, I iterated and refined my curriculum design process to the point that I now feel prepared, confident, and excited to begin my first teaching job in an environment that will empower me to develop curriculum of real significance to my students and community.

The Brown MAT program will teach you to design and carry out lessons, units, and learning experiences that matter. Over the course of the program, I’ve seen many times how an Essential Questions curriculum encourages students to discover and construct knowledge in ways that will transfer to their lives beyond school. Ultimately, curriculum is too important because all students deserve access to challenging, relevant questions about the world and safe, supportive classrooms in which they can develop and express their diverse understandings.”

Science MAT Alumni Receive Prestigious Knowles Science Teaching Fellowships!

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Brianna Balke (MAT ’13) and Emily Berman (MAT ’14)

Over the past five years, three graduates of our MAT Secondary Science program have received the highly selective Knowles Science Teaching (KST) FellowshipsLyuda Shemyakina (MAT ’10), Brianna Balke (MAT ’13), and this year, Emily Berman (MAT ’14) have been named KST Fellows!

Selection criteria for these fellowships include strong content knowledge in the sciences, potential to develop exemplary teaching practices, and possession of the qualities of highly effective teacher leaders.

KST Fellows receive an annual stipend and are eligible for a number of grants throughout their five year fellowship, such as professional development grants (valued at up to $4,000 per year) to cover the cost of relevant activities including workshops, mentoring, practitioner inquiry, and Fellow observations. Fellows are also eligible to receive up to $1,200 per year for teaching materials, and are able to apply for leadership grants to pursue efforts that will have a positive impact on STEM education beyond their own classroom.

Balke and Berman are both science teachers in an urban charter school in Rhode Island, while Schemyakina is a science teacher in Chicago. Congratulations to these teacher leaders on their continued accomplishments!

“Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?”: Encouraging Girls to Reach their Full Potential

Current Elementary MAT Emma Gonsalves completed her fall practicum this semester at Sophia Academy, a small, nondenominational, independent middle school for girls from low-income homes in Providence. Emma was kind enough to share her experience bringing guest speaker Dr. Shelley Cyr into the classroom, who reinforced to the students that they can achieve their dreams with hard work and persistence. Read Emma’s words below!

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Sophia Academy, an all-girl independent school in Providence, is the ideal location to encourage young girls to be strong, determined, and ambitious individuals. Over the past few months, the 5th graders have been learning about Elizabeth Blackwell and her admirable persistence in becoming the first female doctor. For our class book bag project, we read the story Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone and discussed the meaning of persistence. Each week, three girls bring home the book bag, read the book to a family member, and write a story of a time when they were persistent.

In order to reinforce the importance of women in the medical field, I invited Shelley Cyr, a doctor at Brown University, to talk about her experience in pursuing a career as a doctor. Beginning at a young age, Shelley was driven to prove her worth as a female by fighting to join the all-boy track team in high school. She was the first and only girl to run alongside the boys, proving she was equally capable. Shelley explained to the 5th graders that although she faced adversity as a female, she never gave up her dream of becoming a doctor.

After answering questions the girls previously prepared, Shelley passed out stethoscopes and penlights for the girls to experiment with. Each student had the opportunity to listen to a classmate’s heartbeat, and examine how their pupils contract when exposed to light! Not only was Shelley’s story motivating, but the hands-on experience inspired many of the girls to consider becoming doctors one day. One student even exclaimed, “I want to be a doctor just like Shelley because I want to help kids feel better when they are sick!”

Watching my students become excited about their future proved the power that teachers have in encouraging their students to reach their full potential. I hope they always remember this experience and the wonderful stories Shelley shared with us! As Shelley wrote in a letter to the 5th graders, “You can do anything if you follow your dreams with persistence.”

Community, Equity, Positivity: Science Alumni Reflect on their MAT Years

Each year, many members of our vibrant MAT cohort consist of the the Science concentrators: students focusing on broadening and deepening their knowledge in Biology, Chemistry, or Engineering/Physics while training to become secondary school teachers.  We asked a few of our Science MAT alumni to share their thoughts on how their Brown education influences their current experiences as educators in science.

EmilyEmily Berman, Science MAT ‘14

Thanks to my experiences with the MAT program, I have entered my first year of teaching with confidence, focus, and, most importantly, an ability to reflect on my practice. The MAT program has taught me to be a conscious educator, and I am grateful that I am able to use the skills I have been taught to put together a strong lesson, and then afterwards to think critically about how I can improve upon it. The quality of reflective practice made me a strong candidate for teaching positions, and has been invaluable in the classroom. I am teaching 7th and 8th grade science, and I feel that the MAT program’s emphasis on reflection has helped me become more responsive to my students’ needs. During my year in the program, I was pushed to take risks and try new things with my students, and this also has been a great asset to my classroom teaching. I am having so much fun during my first year of teaching, and I really do feel I can attribute that to the attitude that the MAT program instilled in me!

Brianna-BalkeBrianna Balke, Science MAT ‘13

When I started the MAT program in 2012, I had a strong sense of what kind of teacher I wanted to be, but lacked the practical skills to transform that idealistic vision into reality. The MAT year provided me the opportunity to develop those skills in a supportive environment, while also pushing me to deepen and broaden my sense of how I could be a powerful agent of social change in the classroom. I am particularly thankful for the opportunities I had to engage with incredible faculty, mentors, and thoughtful, passionate teachers around what it means to create equitable, student-centered, inquiry-based classrooms that focus on students as individuals. The relationships I built with my faculty, mentors, and fellow teachers continue to sustain me in my teaching practice today.

Last year I taught at a school in my home state of Colorado, but I am now back in Rhode Island, teaching at Blackstone Academy, where I did my student teaching two years ago. I loved my student teaching experience so much that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return as a full-time teacher when a position became available. I could not be more excited to be at a school that shares the same values as the Brown MAT program: a focus on community, equity, positive school culture, and individualized learning.

“The Beginning of Something New” for Brown 5th-Year Students

Each year, a number of students in our cohort consist of Brown “5th-Years”: those who have just completed their undergraduate education at Brown University, and opt to stay on board for another year as they earn their MAT degree. We asked a few of our current 5th-Years to share their thoughts and feelings on their extra year at Brown.

Wendy Rogers, History/Social Studies MAT ‘15

Continuing at Brown for a fifth-year in the MAT program allows you to experience the invigorating newness of freshman year with the sense of purpose and comfort that can only be achieved after spending four years already on campus. In many ways, the classes feel like regular undergrad courses (and often, they are). However, approaching the courses through the lens of a teacher-in-training, as opposed to an undergrad with an abstract interest in the subject, allows for what I have found to be a much more fulfilling classroom experience. Now, when I listen to a lecture or participate in a discussion section, my thoughts aren’t just on final papers. Instead I ask, “How can I teach this to my students so they are as engaged as I am right now?” In many ways, the fifth year feels like just that – a fifth year in the same place. In more important ways, it feels like the beginning of something new.

ToriTeachingSummer14Victoria Wilson, Elementary MAT ‘15

During SummerPrep, I felt for the first time that I was truly immersed in a ‘world’ of teaching. Sure, I had plenty of teaching experiences in the past – I had taught at D’Abate’s summer program, as well as in a number of other classrooms as an assistant teacher – but SummerPrep’s days provided me a glimpse into how everyday teaching in a classroom might look and feel. I came to know not only a new kind of exhaustion, arriving at 7:30 AM each day and leaving after my own literacy, math, or analysis class at 5:00 PM, but also a different sort of flexibility. I became more familiar with lesson planning, preparing my materials days in advance, and learning to tweak them based on students’ progress and needs gleaned from the previous day. I saw how units of study, such as the literacy unit plan my co-teacher and I developed together, could transform as we realized what our students could do and what we might in turn challenge them to discover. I learned how wonderful it is to plan my questions in advance – never before had I realized they would be that much better – yet that I must also remember to think on my feet, taking each new question or comment from a child thoughtfully as it comes.

After SummerPrep, I felt ready to enter my fall placement at Pleasant View Elementary School. I know how  to remain flexible with lesson planning, and I know how to better manage my time. Although my placement has brought new challenges for me – and, of course, I am always learning – I am grateful for the experience I had this summer.

Daniel Bisaccio Published in International Journal

The Director of the Science Education program, Daniel Bisaccio, recently published an article in LaJornada Veracruz on his HabitatNet Biodiversity and Education program in Mexico. The article (in Spanish) is available in pdf format.

So, you want to make a movie: Local high school students team with MAT Director of Science Education to produce a video about the secondary MAT program

High school seniors Rory McGuire and Travis Robinson (The Met School) hoped to produce a video as their final internship before graduation. Dan Bisaccio, Director of Science Education, served as their internship mentor for the project.

New Article on Developing Engaging Secondary Science Curriculum by Prof. Bisaccio

The British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences recently published an article written by Brown University Education Department’s Director of Science Education Daniel J. Bisaccio.  The article describes some of the current strategies used to prepare secondary science teachers in the Education Department’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program.  The article is available in pdf format.