WSU Program Enhances Teachers' SkillsOGDEN, Utah – While most students and teachers view summer as a time to take a break from schoolwork, some public school math teachers will use summer vacation as a chance to head back to the classroom—as students.
The Bridging The Gap (BTG) program offered by Weber State University in connection with the Utah State Office of Education offers training to public school math teachers interested in improving their skills. Successful completion of the courses leads to higher levels of mathematics endorsements or certifications, allowing instructors to teach a greater number of classes and advanced curriculum in their school district.
BTG courses are offered during evenings and summer break to make them convenient for full-time teachers. Also, the selected locations have easy access to I-15. Faculty from WSU's Department of Mathematics teach the courses.
"Instructors understand the needs and limitations of in-service teachers and tailor the curriculum accordingly," said Tamas Szabo, an associate mathematics professor at WSU who coordinates the BTG program. He said teachers are motivated to take the courses for a variety of reasons, ranging from job security to advancement to using them as electives toward master's degrees in education.
In the case of Wayne Sumner, a math teacher at Northridge High School in Davis County, BTG classes helped him transition from working as a mechanical engineer to becoming an educator. Sumner has taken seven BTG classes since 2001, earning a level three teaching certification. He plans to take another course in the summer of 2005 to attain level four certification.
In addition to convenient locations and times that accommodate his teaching workload, Sumner has discovered another benefit of the program.
"Teachers at the secondary level are rather isolated, they don't get to interact with their colleagues very much," Sumner said. "Bridging the Gap classes offered an opportunity to meet and compare notes with other educators dealing with similar challenges."
Sumner said he continues to stay in touch with some of his BTG classmates.
WSU has been offering the program since 2001. Prior to that, the University of Utah coordinated the program for 17 years. This summer, five courses will be offered covering topics in calculus, algebra and teaching methods at WSU's Ogden and Davis campuses. Most classes meet four times a week (Mon.-Thurs.) for eight weeks, starting June 14. Class length varies depending on the subject. Szabo said 60-100 teachers typically enroll in the program each summer.
"We have had teachers from 20 different districts participate, including some exotic ones like Piute, Emery, Cache, Sevier and Wasatch," Szabo said. "Most teachers, though, come from along the Wasatch front."
The cost of the classes, including textbooks, are covered by the teachers' school districts, thanks in large part to state grants and the districts' professional development budgets. Szabo said that some teachers who do not yet have jobs end up paying the $50/credit hour fee themselves.
For more information about the program, visit faculty.weber.edu/tszabo/btg/.