School of Education Middle Level Institute Emphasizes Math, Science

School of Education Middle Level Institute Emphasizes Math, Science

The New Mexico Highlands University School of Education’s second Middle Level Institute July 31 — Aug. 3 presented best practices for teaching 6th — 8th grade youth, with emphasis this year on teaching science, technology, engineering and math content.
 
Teams of middle school teachers and principals from Northern New Mexico communities like Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and Mora participated in interactive sessions with leading middle school experts from around the country, including faculty from Highlands University’s School of Education.
 
“Nationwide and here in New Mexico, student test scores show weakness in the science, technology, engineering and math areas,” said Belinda Laumbach, new director for the School of Education’s School for Professional Development. “This year at the institute we’re placing special emphasis on teaching reading and writing skills that improve success in science and math.”
 
School of Education Dean Michael Anderson said that middle school students have very different developmental needs than older and younger children.
 
“Content is always important,” Anderson said. “However, middle school age children have special cognitive, emotional and physiological needs. It takes special attention to those needs to help students make the transition from child to young adult and succeed in school. Middle school teachers need specific knowledge, skills and dispositions.”
 
Martina Tapia, the new principal for Memorial Middle School in Las Vegas, participated in the institute.
 
“Together, we are developing strategies and activities at the institute that will be implemented throughout the school year to make academic gains for our students,” Tapia said.
 
Tapia, who completed her master’s degree in education at Highlands, added: “Dr. Laumbach has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I learned so much from her in graduate school. It feels like I’ve come full circle being at the institute.”
 
Another new element of the institute this year was a ThinkQuest session, where teachers learned about how to access and use online resources for this technology education initiative developed by Oracle Corp.
 
“Leading From the Middle” was another new session designed to engage administrators in a wide range of concepts and techniques for effective leadership. Jim Burns, educational leadership professor in the School of Education, presented the session along with adjunct education faculty member Ron Murray.
 
Laumbach said another new component of the institute this year is seven follow-up visits she’ll make to each participating school during the 2011 — 2012 school year.
 
“I’ll teach demonstration lessons in the teacher’s classrooms, using their curriculum with their students while the teachers observe,” Laumbach said. “Then I’ll meet with the teachers to talk about specific instructional strategies I used with this age level. Research shows onsite follow up is an effective model for ongoing professional development for teachers.”
 
Laumbach is an award-winning educator with 39 years of teaching experience, including 19 years in middle schools. She also taught in classrooms ranging from Head Start children to graduate-level education students.
 
Laumbach earned her Ph.D. in education from the University of New Mexico, with postdoctoral training from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has expertise in bilingual education, and completed both her M.A. and B.A. in education at Highlands.
 
The Trujillo, N.M. native taught in the School of Education from 1994 — 2006, returning to its faculty in 2010.  
 
The Middle Level Institute is part of the School of Education’s Center for Professional Development, which opened spring semester 2010. The center is designed to help educators help their students successfully complete core courses in middle school, a crucial building block to excelling in high school and college.  
 
To learn more about the university’s Center for Professional Development, contact Laumbach at laumbach_b@nmhu.edu or 505-454-3146.