After another successful year and a growing list of interested teachers, organizers of the Charlotte Teachers Institute are discussing how best to expand the program without losing its personal touch.
“My big concern is, I want to grow as an institute, but I don’t want to get bigger,” said Beth Lasure, a Mallard Creek High School art teacher and steering committee member for the institute.
Lasure helped start the Charlotte Teachers Institute, which is an offshoot of the Yale National Initiative, the national model for university and secondary seminar partnerships.
The Charlotte Teachers Institute organizes seminars given by UNC Charlotte and Davidson College professors that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers can attend. During the seminars, teachers write research papers and new curricula that they use and share in the classroom.
Scott Gartlan, executive director of the Charlotte Teachers Institute, called the program transformative.
“Teachers are not the same after they go through this program, and they’re really hungry for a high-quality, collaborative, professional, developmental experience, and I think we provide that for them,” Gartlan said.
Ninety-four teachers, from elementary to high school, just celebrated the end of this year’s seminars, and Lasure said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to choose teachers to participate because the program has become so popular.
Seminars typically are held for only a dozen teachers.
“This is the first year we’ve had to turn people away,” Lasure said. “The problem right now is how do we keep that (intimate setting) when teachers are happy with it?”
Lasure said the local steering committee is working on a five-year plan to figure out how best to manage the institute’s growth.
One option would be to add more colleges to the mix; but Lasure said the group is wary about that option because it likes its partnership with UNCC and Davidson, and adding a third school might introduce logistical issues.
A more feasible option is to run a summer program, she said. The institute ran a pilot program of seminars this summer, and the committee is looking into its successes and failures to figure out what it might do in future summers.
“That’s sort of been a more practical choice, and then we also can possibly bring on other partners a bit more easily,” Lasure said.
Allison Baker, an 11th-grade U.S. history teacher at Vance High School, just completed the seminar “American Political Parties: Their Failures and Their Futures,” presented by Davidson’s Susan Roberts.
The seminar explored the influence of political parties and conventions through time, and Baker said she’s excited that the subject material will be timely for her students this spring.
Baker said she was the first teacher from Vance who attended the institute, and her experience is just one more way the institute will grow, or at least become more popular. “I think it was a great experience, and I’m actually going to try to be a teacher liaison here at Vance to get other teachers involved in it,” she said. “I’m hoping in the future to stay really involved.”
A list of next year’s seminars and schools whose teachers are eligible to apply will be available online in mid- to late February, Lasure said.
The institute’s website is www.charlotteteachers.org.