MTSU’s College of Education ‘Optimizes’ Math Teacher Training for MCS

Jul 19, 2022 at 10:54 am by Voice Wire

Middle Tennessee State University faculty and Murfreesboro City Schools partnered on math literacy training called Project Optimal completed by an inaugural cohort of MCS teachers this past school year and wrapped up recently with the final five of 10 total days held at the College of Education this summer. (MTSU photo by Stephanie Barrette)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU’s College of Education continues to strengthen its relationship with Murfreesboro City Schools, this time through math literacy training for K-5 teachers who will return to their district and share their new knowledge with teacher colleagues.  

“We love the teachers teaching teachers model,” said Katie Schrodt, assistant professor of education and one of three faculty running the professional development. “Teachers want to hear from other teachers like them who are in the classroom, so it’s a really effective professional development model.”  

Project Optimal, or the Ongoing Professional Development for Teachers in Math and Literacy, trains educators on teaching four state math literacy standards introduced a few years ago.  

Jeremy Winters, math education professor and lead of the project, guided the first cohort of 26 educators over 10 sessions this past year in collaboration with math professor Dovie Kimmins, MCS math coordinator Cindy Cliche and using around $400,000 of the district’s remaining Tennessee Department of Education ESSR Grants. The training culminated with its final five days this summer on campus.  

Funding went toward stipends for participating teachers and trainers and materials — such as math manipulatives, math literature books and new math curriculum — for teachers to take back to their classrooms.  

“Our goal is to try and help teachers understand how to take these four standards from the state and integrate them into their math instruction, so that it’s kind of a seamless process,” Winters said. “When they do this, it’s going to allow their students to have more access to jobs that aren't just necessarily math jobs because now they’re seeing how to communicate, write and work with vocabulary within a discipline that will also help them outside that discipline.”  

Teachers worked in groups to solve problems, develop lesson materials and engage in friendly competition with their fellow participants for prizes.  

Winters, once a math teacher himself, said the positive attitude of the participating teachers has been a highlight.  

“They’ve had a willingness to work through some pretty difficult math and literacy topics, struggling through without complaint,” he said.  

Schrodt, who brings her literacy expertise to the training, said she has most enjoyed forging relationships with the teachers and school district.  

“I’ve loved seeing the heroic, amazing work that they do every day and just really fostering this partnership between MTSU and Murfreesboro City Schools,” she said. “We feel blessed, lucky, important that we get to work with them and that they allow us to learn from them every day.”  

Ty Wallace, a fourth-grade math and science teacher at Cason Lane Academy, said the training was offered to him as a newer teacher.  

“Out of the almost 100 hours of professional development I’ve done over the course of my career, this one has been the most memorable because of the knowledge from and access to MTSU professors,” he said.  

“Next school year I’ll definitely be taking a lot of this (into the classroom) because … being able to integrate the literacy standards and math standards together will help expand my students’ knowledge, not just solving problems but also being able to use other strategies and activities.” 

Winters, Schrodt and Kimmins will begin training the next cohort of MCS teachers in Project Optimal this August, and Schrodt said they could envision replicating this model of professional development in other surrounding school systems.  

To learn more about the professional development opportunities available through the College of Education, visit the website or Facebook page  


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