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22 June 2007
Impacting Local Science Teachers

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Dr. Zettili believes training high school teachers in the summer, giving them additional tools, makes an impact on students. Photo: Anita Kilgore

Six years ago, Dr. Nouredine Zettili of Jacksonville State University’s Department of Physical and Earth Sciences became very disturbed when he noticed many of his college physics students had never taken physics in high school.

“I was puzzled by the question why, so I did a survey. Most of the students said physics is for the smart, it’s intimidating, it’s only for the very bright students,” said Zettili, who decided teaching teachers during the summer and giving them additional tools could have an impact on their students.

Based on the need he saw, he began a summer training session called Strengthening Physics in Secondary Education. The first year of SPINSEED, however, the teachers who came to the program told him they would love to have a chemistry refresher as well, since many of them taught other science classes at their schools.

William Chandler, a science teacher at White Plains High School, has been coming to the program, now called Improving Physics and Chemistry Teaching in Secondary Education, since its first year. Aside from a refresher on chemistry and physics concepts, Chandler comes to the two-week course for the equipment he receives for his classroom upon completion.

“The biggest advantage is the money we get for lab equipment so we can actually do labs in school. We couldn’t afford it any other way,” said Chandler who teaches physical science, physics and chemistry.

That need for equipment, as well as the initial need Dr. Zettili saw in his students, is what has kept IMPACTSEED funded for the last six years.

“There’s a need for this program. I may be missing something, but this is the only one that serves high school science and specifically high school physics and chemistry,” said Dr. Jim Conely, the Title II staff assistant with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

ACHE funnels money from No Child Left Behind to IMPACTSEED and it is Conely’s job to see check on the programs they fund and ensure the money is well-spent.

“No Child Left Behind has gotten a lot of bad raps, some of which I understand, but this is one part of the whole program – just a tiny part of the whole legislation – that directly serves teachers,” said Conely.

Hilarie Howard, who teaches at Spring Garden High School, has also attended ever since the program’s SPINSEED days. Throughout the years she has been part of the program she has really enjoyed the yearlong support built into the program.

Being able to make contact with college professors to me is huge. Dr. Zettili has been to Spring Garden three different times,” said Howard. “He comes and presentations and meets with my students and they love it.”

In addition to Zettili, Dr. Noureddine Beckhouche of the Technology and Engineering Department and Drs. Al Nichols and Laura Weinkauf of the Department of Physical and Earth Sciences teach the teachers and take them through the lab projects.

IMPACTSEED splits each day between chemistry lecture, chemistry labs, physics lecture and problem solving and physics labs – a long day, stretching from 8:30 each morning to 3:30 each afternoon with an hour’s break for lunch, but each of the 35 teachers at this year’s session are more than willing to devote the time.

Of course, some of the teachers, like David Kadle, get college credit for the course, icing on the cake with all the other benefits.

“It’s beneficial to my teaching. I get to talk to different people and see how they do different things,” said Kadle, who teaches physics, chemistry and Earth science at Jacksonville High School.

Each year, the program takes a portion of the state chemistry and physics curriculum to go over with lectures and labs. This allows the professors who work with the teachers to go through the entire curriculum in three years of sessions.

Kathy Ray of Alexandria High School enjoys the chemistry lab. Photo: Anita Kilgore

It is the second year for Alexandria High School’s Katherine Ray. Currently teaching chemistry, she knows she may be called upon for other science courses in the future.

“I teach chemistry and anatomy. I’ve taught physics before and I may have to do it again one year, so this will prepare me for that,” she said.

When the session was held on June 15, the teachers all knew it wouldn’t be the end of their learning process. There are five technology workshops throughout the year and JSU professors are available to offer help and answer questions year-round.

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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