Free or low-cost programs and materials can help teachers stretch their tight budgets. NSTA member Sharon Cumiskey has turned to NSTA’s member newspaper, NSTA Reports, for over 20 years to find quality teacher resources. Throughout her career, Cumiskey has benefited from opportunities she’s found in NSTA Reports. “Some of my fellow teachers ask me how I hear about the opportunities,” Cumiskey says. “I tell them that they just need to read NSTA Reports.”
Cumiskey: When NSTA sends out NSTA Reports, I like to check out the different sections such as “In Your Pocket,” “Grab Bag,” and “Summer Programs” for free resources and opportunities for teachers. (Note from NSTA: Our popular Freebies column is available online).
I look at programs for the summer months, in particular. At one point during my career I was a single parent, so I was happy if I could find a program that paid me over the summer. I sometimes would apply for three or four of the summer programs I read about in NSTA Reports. I took advantage of anything I could apply for. Fortunately, most of the time, I only got accepted to one program. Only once did I get accepted to two programs and I had to choose (one of the programs let me postpone my participation for a year).
One summer, I spent six weeks in Arizona studying astronomy with the American Astronomical Society Teacher Resource Agent (AASTRA) Program, which I read about in NSTA Reports. During AASTRA, we attended classes taught by astronomers, such as Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway from the University of Texas. We worked our way through a huge notebook of astronomy activities for middle school and high school and would practice teaching the activities to one another. After AASTRA ended, we got paid through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to make presentations about what we learned during the program. I gave presentations about AASTRA at NSTA conferences.
In 2010, I took part in MIT’s Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (SEPT), which I also learned about from NSTA Reports. SEPT is like an honor class for teachers. To be accepted into the program, you have to already have proven that you can network and that you give back to the science education community. You spend a week at MIT attending specific classes, networking with professors, and learning about MIT’s cutting-edge scientific research.
Thanks to NSTA Reports, I also found out about two programs—one on nanotechnology and the other on digital imaging—at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Both of those programs were very informative. In fact, I’m presenting about digital imaging at the NSTA Conference in Richmond, VA, this coming October. The summer program gave us access to free digital imaging software, so I devised a genetics lesson for my students in which we analyze eye color. I recently wrote up the lesson, and it was published in Science Scope.
NSTA provided me with the opportunity to find out about and participate in these programs. So, I feel like I owe something back to NSTA. That’s why I like to present at NSTA conferences.
What other opportunities have you learned about in NSTA Reports?
Cumiskey: A while ago, I read in NSTA Reports that Massachusetts (my state) was offering to pay the fee for a certain number of teachers to pursue National Board Certification. I didn’t have $2,500 to spend on the fee, especially for a certification that I might not get. But, since Massachusetts was paying the bill, I was willing to try. I received my National Board Certification, and it was worth doing. The certification has helped me get into some of the programs I’ve attended.
Jennifer Henderson is our guest blogger for this series. Before launching her freelance career as a writer/editor, Jennifer was Managing Editor of The Science Teacher, NSTA’s peer-reviewed journal for high school science teachers.