TPS Western Region Coordinator Keith Patterson and TPS Master Teacher Cindy Stout headed north last November to conduct a “train the trainer” workshop in Alaska. Hosted by the Alaska Network for Understanding American History (ANUAH) and coordinator Stephanie Campbell, the three led a group of teachers and trainers for two days.
ANUAH is a state-wide network of school districts, concentrated on supporting Alaskan history teachers. They support teacher training by providing financial assistance for travel across the state, hosting and arranging workshops, and providing online classes.
Stephanie told us about some of the struggles facing ANUAH teachers:
“One of the problems with Alaska is it’s so huge.When a district wants to do an in-service day or training, it’s hard to get people to go. You can’t just hop in the car and drive out there. It takes two days to get in and out of Anchorage—and all for a three-hour workshop.”
As we’ve discussed here on the TPS blog, training and inquiry are key to success in the classroom. And this is why Stephanie was so eager to get TPS representatives to Alaska. “A lot of times, they [ANUAH teachers] don’t get that training. A couple of people who came into our Summer Academy here in Anchorage had participated in Library of Congress professional development, and what they got was so precious. But when they returned, there was no support integrated in their classrooms. So we got in touch with Keith. We said it would be great if we could have specialists in Alaska, so the people in those districts could get more training and support, increasing the use of [Library of Congress materials] all across the state.”
“After talking with Stephanie,” Keith said, “we realized we needed to develop a cadre of TPS trainers that could provide training to remote areas of Alaska. After discussing this we developed a plan to provide this additional training session.”
Keith, Cindy, and Stephanie all agreed on one point – the workshop was a hit. “The instructors were wonderful,” said Stephanie. “We came out of there with plans for one and a half hour workshops, all the way up to one-credit workshops. Now our trainers can provide anything their districts want – we have a plan in place for them.”
Not that the training was without its struggles – that weekend, the Library of Congress website was down for maintenance. Luckily, with a little bit of foresight and some scrambling, Keith managed to obtain a variety of proven primary sources and print them in time for the workshop.
The workshop addressed specific concerns of trainers. “It was a challenge getting people from five different school districts, from all different levels of teaching, from second grade to high school. They made their training applicable for us, at every level. It was great that they gave us the tools to teach others how to use the Library of Congress, no matter what level they teach,” Stephanie observed. As Keith noticed, “We really needed to identify some core materials, that could be used, and we did.”
Cindy’s biggest tip for the trainers? “Think about who your audience is. The things you would do in your classroom, you can’t necessarily do with adult learners. Think about what they need or what they want, and then try to provide that.”
As Stephanie told us, the TPS team was hugely successful in reaching the Alaskan trainers. “They did a really great job of finding things that were applicable to Alaska, and applicable to us. One of the things they did is, they used a picture, and we went through and looked at it. They said it was 4th Avenue, back in dogsled days. We just wanted to keep talking about that all day long. We even went online to see other pictures to go with it. We were questioning – that looks like a name we know here – were those people here back then? We really got involved on that. Imagine what kids would have done! If they had brought us something from Denver, it wouldn’t have intrigued us as much. But they really worked to bring us something that was ours.”
The only change Stephanie would have made? “I would have tried to get more people in from other districts.”
Stephanie and ANUAH have already begun planning even more ways to incorporate the skills they have learned working with Teaching with Primary Sources. The group has already scheduled several training sessions and presentations in the coming months, and plan to continue looking for new ways to use primary sources in the classroom, and share their discoveries with their colleagues.
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