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Math, science teacher training begins

ST. PAUL - Ask Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren about how students will benefit from the new Minnesota Mathematics and Science Teacher Academy and she will give you a simple answer: "We are hoping that all kids will love math much more than they do now."

Teachers from across Minnesota gathered Wednesday to organize the academy, an effort to make math and science teaching more relevant - and as Seagren says, more exciting - to students.

Teacher training centers will be in Thief River Falls, Mountain Iron, Fergus Falls, Staples, Marshall, St. Cloud, Mankato, Rochester and Plymouth. Sites in each of those communities will be where teachers, curriculum directors and principals are trained in new ways to teach math and science.

"Math and science education are central to Minnesota's efforts to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.

"By providing teachers with the professional development needed to become more effective in the classroom, the teacher academy is a vital component in our goal of taking Minnesota students from nation-leading to world competing," he added.

Seagren said the academy will train educators, who will return to their home districts and, in turn, train other teachers. About 900 teachers will attend the academy.

"They will be maintaining a connection with teachers throughout the school year," Seagren said. "It is not just about learning something, it is about implementing it."

Other states have worked to improve science and math teaching - two areas leaders say are vital for the country's future - but Minnesota is the first to incorporate colleges, universities and others in the effort, the commissioner said.

The academy is funded by $1.5 million in state money and $500,000 from the National Governors Association.

Seagren used algebra as an example of what the academy will do. A new state high school algebra requirement begins in 2015, she said, so the academy will help teachers learn how to prepare middle school students with "pre-algebra concepts."

Teacher center locations and partner organizations:

-- Northwest Service Cooperative in Thief River Falls; partners, Bemidji State University and EdSights.

-- Northeast Service Cooperative in Mountain Iron; partners, Hibbing Community College and the University of Minnesota Duluth

-- Lakes Country Service Cooperative in Fergus Falls; partners, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College

-- Freshwater Education District in Staples; partners, Central Lakes Community College and DePaul University

-- Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative in Marshall; partners, Minnesota River Valley Education District and Minnesota State University Southwest

-- Resource Training & Solutions in St. Cloud; partner, Augsburg College

-- Minnesota State University Mankato; partners, South Central Cooperative Agency, Normandale Community College, Gustavus Adolphus College and the Science Museum of Minnesota

-- Southeast Service Cooperative in Rochester; partner, Winona State University

-- Inter-District 287/Northeast Metro 916 in Plymouth; partners, Metro Educational Cooperative Service Unit, University of Minnesota, Hamline University and Normandale Community College

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.