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TIES Weekly Update - March 28, 2017


Bertha Vazquez

March 28, 2017

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) stresses the importance of promoting teacher leadership in the United States. Here at TIES we feel that our fellow teachers are our own best resources. We are looking for high school and college biology educators who are interested in presenting our TIES workshops to middle school science teachers in their state. Our reasoning is that a middle school science teacher will typically cover many areas of science within his/her annual curriculum, including earth science, physical science, and life science. It is virtually impossible to become an expert in all of these areas, at least not initially. The purpose of TIES is to inform interested middle school science teachers about the most up-to-date concepts of natural selection, common ancestry, and diversity in order for them to confidently cover the topics in their classrooms and fulfill their curriculum requirements. In addition to providing science teachers with innovative professional development opportunities, TIES also has ready-to-use online resources for the classroom, including presentation slides, labs, guided reading assignments, and an exam.

It’s been a good week for TIES.

  1. Our TIES Teacher Corps Member in Louisiana, Blake Touchet, wrote a proposal to present a TIES workshop at a science teacher conference in Mississippi. We’ll most likely need to wait for months before we hear back from the conference organizers since Blake sent our proposal in very early. He noted that evolution standards begin in 4th grade in Mississippi. This is encouraging. Blake presented successfully for us last October in Baton Rouge and is also awaiting word about his proposal to present for us at the NSTA Regional Conference in New Orleans later this year. (NSTA=National Science Teachers Association).
  2. We confirmed another district-level workshop this week.
    • June 8, 2017: Torrance Unified School District Professional Development Day, Torrance, CA, presented by Nicoline Chambers
  3. We had three workshops in three different states last week, Michigan, Rhode Island, and North Dakota. I received excellent feedback from all three presenters, but I was truly heartened when I read the e-mail from presenter Scott Johnson in North Dakota. His workshop experience truly demonstrates the fact that we are achieving the goals of our teacher institute. The idea for TIES began to blossom back in November of 2014, I had the opportunity to tell Richard Dawkins about my small efforts to help my colleagues with their evolution curriculum by providing them with resources and content. Richard Dawkins truly demonstrated his commitment to evolution education in the United States when he offered to come to my middle school and help me with my efforts. After this successful event, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science asked me to take my efforts to a national level. Our intention was to provide middle school science teachers with solid content on evolutionary biology and valuable free resources. Scott Johnson’s words inspire me to double down on our efforts. TIES is succeeding. From one middle school in Miami all the way to the great state of North Dakota!

“It went really well overall for North Dakota. The teachers were extremely appreciative of having the resources and I was able to ensure they had a copy of the PowerPoint and "coaching" about delivery before they left. In the beginning, I shared my own observations of the traps we often build ourselves when delivering evolution concepts as well as voicing how difficult the message can be when we are in more rural locations (North Dakota has mostly smaller schools with some large schools) that can have their own agendas. I stressed, as North Dakota Science Teachers Association president, that we as an organization support your resources for the entire unit you provided and they can rely upon this resource for reference that is backed also by the NSTA as well. That speaks volumes, and the attendees were visibly appreciative. We lastly had issues with connectivity (which I anticipated) so I talked through what they would see when we had lags. 

Several thought it was an hour presentation and had to leave to make the next session (program issue).  Those that remained I broke it down to a smaller and more intimate setting. That was really fun and we discussed more personal aspects and I turned it into a coaching session as we finished. Pretty cool stuff 

All told, I had two middle-level earth science teachers (which I did not anticipate) that appreciated the earth timeline link and geological profile aspects to the presentation; the rest were either middle schools or high school level life science teachers and I shared my experiences with linking carbon dating in chemistry and evolutionary adaptations in anatomy for an overall message of evolution being a cross-curricular and binding concept across all of science rather than that unit commonly taught in biology class. And most often taught hesitatingly and almost done seeking forgiveness (my opinion).

To wrap up, I saw genuine relief for the support offered in this unit-based presentation you prepared. Teachers in attendance saw a variety of options and support and we brainstormed the different ways a fuller unit could be generated to surpass just the power point (thanks to the multiple links and presenters notes).  Truly great stuff and I appreciate the work!  I plan on sharing what you have provided as often as I can in future interactions in my district and with my other interactions on our public communications throughout the state. That's how it works around here and I anticipate the network to endure and the message to be amplified in the months to come.  Thank you so much for the support and the work!”

Bertha Vazquez

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Bertha Vazquez has been teaching middle school science in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 24 years. She has BA in Biology from the University of Miami and a Master’s in Science Education from Florida International University. A seasoned traveler who has visited all seven continents, she enjoys introducing the world of nature and science to young, eager minds. An educator with National Board Certification, she is the recipient of several national and local honors, including the 2014 Samsung’s $150,000 Solve For Tomorrow Contest and The Charles C. Bartlett National Excellence in Environmental Award in 2009. She was Miami-Dade Science Teacher of the Year in 1997 and 2008 and was one of Florida’s 2015 finalists for the most prestigious science award in the country, The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.