WHEELING – The state of West Virginia has awarded Wheeling University more than $41,000 to extend its partnership with the Marshall County School District to enhance math education and continue a teacher training collaboration that was launched last year. A year ago, the University received a $12,000 Professional Development Grant to offer co-teaching and collaborative workshops for teachers in Marshall County and Wheeling education majors. The grant also supported the Math4Life initiative to improve student mathematics performance at the middle and high school levels around the state. Dr. Sherri Theaker, professor of Education and director of Wheeling’s Education Program, said the $41,400 grant will allow the two educational entities to enhance the existing relationship to improve math instruction to middle and high school students. Additionally, the funding will provide Wheeling education majors valuable classroom teaching experience and afford Marshall County Math teachers professional development opportunities. “Collaborating with the Marshall County School District over the past two years not only has provided professional development opportunities for the teachers within the district, but has given our teacher candidates the opportunity to become involved in current and relevant classroom math curriculum,” said Dr. Theaker. As part of residency program, John Korte, a Wheeling University junior Education major, will spend a total of 120 hours this year observing middle and high school classes. As a senior, he will student-teach in the middle or high school. He said observing classes this year has been a great experience. “Being inside the classroom has made a big impact on my educational experience at Wheeling. This opportunity has solidified my decision to be an Education major and a teacher. I have a great mentors in Marshall County guiding me through all of the nuances of teaching. I am so grateful for Wheeling University’s partnership with Marshall County Schools, because it has allowed me to gain valuable classroom teaching skills and work with a group of true professionals,” Korte explained. The collaboration with the University, is a great opportunity for the Wheeling education majors to gain experience inside a classroom and affords the district the ability to track its students’ progress, said Holly Woods, Marshall County Schools K-12 mathematics facilitator. “The collaboration with Wheeling University provides many opportunities for pre-service teachers, classroom teachers and administrators to discuss student progress, assessment, needs and plan differentiated instruction. The experience of working in professional learning community (PLC) creates a team within the school to address the needs of all students and provides teachers with support. Experiencing a PLC is something that many pre-service teachers often are not familiar with, and shows how the relationships are vital in creating a learning environment,” Woods explained. Theaker added, “The Wheeling University teacher candidates also have become immersed in professional development activities allowing them to work side by side with veteran teachers in the field as they keep current on their content knowledge and pedagogy.” In addition to funding professional development for preservice teachers and teachers in Marshall County, a portion of this year’s grant allowed for the purchase of 100 iPads that the Moundsville Middle School students can use for in class math instruction and to work in small group settings on math content. Dr. Dianna Vargo, director of Graduate Education and an instructor in the Math Department, said, “Wheeling University has aligned its mathematics education curriculum with West Virginia Department of Education policy to include a year-long clinical experience based on the co-teaching model. Additionally, teacher candidates complete a total of 120 classroom observation hours working under the mentorship of a mathematics teacher during their junior year.” Vargo added, “Current national statistics show that 46 percent of school districts in the United States have reported a shortage of math educators. Wheeling University is producing education professionals to help address the shortage of math teachers that school districts are experiencing.” While Wheeling University student teachers are receiving specialized classroom teaching experience, Dr. Theaker said, the Marshall County students and teachers are benefiting from the partnership by introducing innovative math education techniques into the curriculum. In addition to the intensive math instruction, Moundsville Middle School students will receive a copy of the book “The Math Pact.” The book will be incorporated into the middle school’s math curriculum, and provides the educators a coherent approach to teaching and learning mathematics. The grant also affords for the Marshall County math faculty and the Wheeling teacher candidates to complete eight, one-hour workshops pertaining to teacher leadership with a focus on differentiated instruction and co-teaching, Dr. Theaker noted. Additionally, the after school workshops will support the teachers and teacher candidates in using student data to determine interventions for the middle school students in need of extra help. Moundsville Middle School Head Principal Shey McGuire said, “We are excited to utilize block scheduling to provide critical interventions for our students this year. It is imperative that we share our knowledge with the teachers of the future, so they are more equipped to handle everything life brings their way.” Woody Yoder, Marshall County Schools assistant superintendent/ curriculum director, added, “The ability to collaborate with Wheeling University provides opportunities for our teachers to examine ways in which we can better serve our students. In this case math teachers, each teaching more than 100 students on a given day, are working on ways to team up to better serve students who have deficit and/or enrichment needs. Having student teachers and observers working as a part of that teaming is a win for everyone.” The final piece of the program will be for seventh grade students and teachers to participate in e-Missions through Wheeling University’s Challenger Learning Center (CLC). Challenger’s e-Missions are distance learning simulations that connect the students with a flight director at the CLC where the students use their math and science skills to solve a number of crises during the mission. In preparation of the e-Missions, the middle school teachers will incorporate instructional information that not only prepares the students for the simulation, but bolsters their understanding and proficiency of math.