Support for Teachers

To have a positive impact on students, the MIT Club is focusing on connecting with the community and, importantly, with teachers. The Club has always supported the Inspirational Teacher Awards Program of the MIT Alumni Association, which is based on MIT student nominations of high school teachers who greatly influenced them.

Each year, MIT hosts the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (known as SEPT) where teachers from around the world attend a week-long summer training program on campus. Teachers drink from the "MIT firehose" being exposed to a heavy dose of the latest and greatest science and engineering research delivered by MIT researchers and professors. 

Made possible by a generous donation from Northrop Grumman Corporation to the MIT Club of Washington DC, our local alumni chapter was able to sponsor three local teachers to attend SEPT in 2013. The Club conducted an essay competition to select the attendees. The winners of the essay competition were from Richmond Montgomery High School and The Potomac School. The teachers were publicly recognized during the MIT Club Annual Meeting. Repeating this program in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Club sponsored seven more teachers to subequent SEPT programs at MIT. 

The teachers bring their learning and excitement back to their classrooms:

August 31, 2016

Dear MIT Club of Washington DC,

I would like to express my most sincere thanks for giving me the opportunity to participate in the 2016 MIT Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (SEPT) this past June. I returned from my week at MIT full of enthusiasm and eager to pass on the many things I learned from the outstanding SEPT speakers and my teaching peers from around the country and the world.

I anticipated that I would learn a lot during my week at MIT, and in fact the “drinking from a fire hose” analogy was certainly accurate. At SEPT, we learned about so many complex subjects in a way that was both detailed and relatable, allowing us to apply the information to the many different courses we teach. 

Although all the presentations were fantastic, there were several that stood out for me. First, the “Saturday thing” by Prof. Moriarty was simply wonderful and I learned the power of learning by doing things -- mens et manus in action. The “Circuit Sticker workshop” by Ms. Qi, a PhD student, was really impressive and showed us a wonderful and creative way to teach elementary circuits to any student.  In addition, meeting robotics legend Prof. Woodie Flowers (who advised us that “you learn by doing new and difficult things”), listening to Prof. Belcher discuss nanowires, tying knots with Prof. Miller, and listening to Prof. Evans explain “LIGO and the Detection of Gravitational Waves” were key experiences that will remain with me forever. 

In addition, I learned so much from my fellow attendees.  The ability to interact with STEM teachers who are working with students of many different ages and backgrounds was unique, and I came away with a deeper understanding of the continuum of STEM education.

Now that I have started classes again at the Governor’s School at Innovation Park in Manassas, Virginia, I have become an ambassador of the SEPT program, eager to share my many experiences with fellow faculty members and students.  I will continue to use and promote the amazing teaching resources I learned about such as MIT Open CourseWare, MITx, MIT Blossoms and MIT K-12 videos.  I know that the knowledge I acquired and the connections I made during my week at MIT will stay with me always and will have a significant impact on my continued development as a teacher.   I am very grateful to be part of the Network of Educators in Science and Technology (NEST) group, and I hope to come to SEPT in the future as one of the returning NEST teachers. 

The generosity of everyone I met during the SEPT week was outstanding, and a reflection of the MIT culture.  I would like to thank the MIT Club of Washington DC again for all your support and for making it possible for me to participate in the amazing SEPT program.

Best regards,

Felipe Gutierrez


History

On March 19, 2014 the MIT Club of Washington DC held its first one-day event for STEM teachers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. For over 20 years, MIT has held a week-long summer training program on campus called SEPT (see above). But each year, SEPT can only accommodate a very limited number of teachers, around 30, from around the US. To benefit a larger number of teachers, the Club decided in 2014 to do an experiment by holding a Teacher Training Seminar in Washington DC. The motivation grew out of recognition that the Club’s other activities to support STEM students were only able to reach a small percentage of the students in local schools, but significant leverage could be obtained by directly supporting teachers.  The mission of this event was to expose the STEM teachers to part of the exciting cutting-edge research at MIT or elsewhere with the hope they can improve their scientific knowledge, and take some ideas back to their classrooms and hence benefit their students.

The Visitors Center at Goddard had the advantages of being outside the security fence, having a suitable auditorium, and containing many laboratories and space-related exhibits for the teachers to view.  Funding from a grant from Northrop Grumman was used to cover costs such as box lunches and transportation for tours within Goddard. The event was over-subscribed, but 42 teachers were able to be accommodated.

The program consisted of three hour-long talks (including questions) by senior NASA scientists from Goddard, lunch, and two hours of tours of NASA laboratories.  Networking among teachers was encouraged throughout. Just before lunch, a 20 minute description of educational support NASA offers teachers to help in their classrooms was held, and this turned out to be particularly well received by the teachers.

The audience was quite diverse- about half from middle schools and half from high schools, distributed geographically (many from Maryland and Virginia, a few from DC). All were classroom teachers, except one in charge of designing STEM professional development. About one third were from private or charter schools, and the rest from public schools. All feedback from teachers was positive, and all attendees were very appreciative of the Club’s efforts.