Is Quality PD the Goal of STEM Certification? Here’s What the AACT Has to Say

For anyone who isn’t yet familiar with The American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT), here’s a bit about who we are. We’re 4,500 members strong, though we’ve only been around for three years. Most of us are teachers, and some are other chemistry professionals. We all care deeply about chemistry education and recognize that teachers of chemistry span all grade levels. We are the first national association by and for teachers of chemistry, and we’re proud to join the company of other science education organizations who share many of our goals.

We define our goals like this:

  • We provide the best resources we can to support teachers of chemistry: everything from lesson plans to background reading to student materials to labs and demonstrations. Being a teacher is incredibly demanding and we hope to help our members feel positively rich in resources.
  • We bring teachers of chemistry together in a functional network that enables both experienced and less experienced teachers to connect and learn from one another.
  • We offer and advocate for targeted, quality professional development for teachers of chemistry. Great professional development empowers teachers with specific skills and tools they need to teach and empower their students. 

The STEM Certification Conversation

When the conversation around STEM certification began, we saw that this effort would likely overlap with our interest in quality professional development, because, of course, the value of any certification is in the training, preparation, and experience that underlies it. As advocates for best-in-class professional development, we understand that seeking and renewing certifications are often the driving force behind time and funding being allotted for professional development.

There are certainly many teachers out there who could benefit from training and experience with STEM teaching methods and content. If a certification structure could bring those teachers the experiences and tools they need to better serve their students, then it’s a structure worth considering. Through AACT, we interact with many members who teach other sciences in addition to chemistry, and we appreciate initiatives that support practitioners of multiple disciplines. 

In my own teaching career, having taught math and physics along with chemistry, I have gained a real understanding of the relationships among the disciplines. This has benefited my students, as I have been able to reveal those relationships in their classroom experience. The webinars that we have offered that deal with incorporating engineering, solving mathematical problems with intuition in stoichiometry and working without a calculator have all been well received and reflect our members’ interest in multiple disciplines.

Often times, practical know-how and tips for effective teaching are passed on through informal networks and mentorships among teachers. While that is certainly valuable, there is also value in formalizing and clarifying paths for seeking and attaining that knowledge. A clear, formal path can be widely available to all who aim to improve their practice. And, ultimately, the more teachers who benefit from training, mentorships, and so on, the more students those highly-trained teachers will be able to reach.

And aren’t the students what we’re all about in the end? AACT is proud to join our sister associations in pursuing top-quality education for all of our students by advocating for highly supported, well trained, teachers.

Jenelle Ball is the AACT President and Governing Board Chair. She has teaching high school chemistry for over 30 years. She currently teaches chemistry at Chico High School in Chico, CA.

Editor’s Note

This is the second post in a series from expert voices in STEM education who together are pondering questions about STEM certification. The first post in the series can be found here. Consider adding your thoughts about STEM certification in the comments below. As we tackle this issue and others like it, the steering committee for the STEM Forum & Expo will be building the program for the 7th Annual STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA, to be held July 11–13, 2018, in Philadelphia, PA. Please subscribe to the conferences category at http://nstacommunities.org/blog/subscribe/ to get updates as these blogs are posted.


Future NSTA Conferences

2017 Area Conferences

2017 Discover the NGSS “Train the Trainer” Workshops

2017 NGSS Administrator Institute

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