The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is offering a new Teacher Professional Development Program starting this summer with the goal of expanding STEM and computing knowledge and teaching practices among elementary and middle school teachers. The program, a component of the Innovation Campus’ K-12 Initiatives, is facilitated in partnership with the Alexandria City Public Schools and supported by a $250,000 educational grant from Amazon.

“We are committed to developing an inclusive community and building new pathways to increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics interest and access in K-12 education,” said Lance Collins, vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. “This generous grant from Amazon will further our ability to enhance teachers’ technical skills, opening doors to technical careers for the next generation."

Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon’s global philanthropic computer science education program, funded the grant to support the expansion of the computer science education ecosystem throughout the commonwealth. The donation builds on the company’s investments in computer science education in HQ2 and across Virginia.

"Amazon is thrilled to support the new Teacher Professional Development Program at the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus,” said Victor Reinoso, global director of Amazon Philanthropic Education Initiatives. “We strongly believe in the power of education to unleash creativity and unlock human potential. Through this program and the other education initiatives we support throughout the state, we hope to activate each educator and student’s spirit of innovation and support Virginia’s next generation of leaders who represent our diverse communities.”

Twenty teachers from Northern Virginia are initially slated to take part in the Teacher Professor Development Program, which will be project-based and offered in a hybrid modality. The goals of program are to:

  • Equip K-8 teachers with project-based learning in computer science, STEM labs, and the future workforce
  • Develop K-8 teachers’ technology awareness, its applications, and how to use technology to teach computational thinking
  • Create a sustained community of practice to coach and partner with teachers implementing equity-focused, integrated STEM and computing units

This spring, the Innovation Campus, Amazon, and CodeVA hosted a Computer Science Integration Summit for representatives from Alexandria City Public Schools. The summit featured three sessions that were facilitated by CodeVA, Loudoun County Public Schools, Apple, VEX Robotics, and the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. These sessions provided the school representatives with an introduction to the Virginia Department of Education computer science standards and six strands, a lesson analysis of unplugged and plugged activities, and hands-on tech tool experiences that they may implement in the classroom.

seated crowd watches presentation
One of the presentations given during this spring's Computer Science Integration Summit.

This summer, the participating teachers will discover cutting-edge STEM and computing labs through hands-on, project-based activities centered around computer science integration, robotics, sensor technology, environment, and careers. Teachers will develop fundamental computational thinking and coding skills.

“This hybrid teacher professional development will provide educators access to sustained support and teaching resources to increase the integration of computer science into K-8 classrooms,” said Pamela Gilchrist, director of K-12 Initiatives at the Innovation Campus. “Educators will be embedded in an innovative learning community that combines the expertise of educators, industry, nonprofit organizations, and institutions of higher education authentically to build teacher agency and efficacy, while increasing student engagement and preparation for the future of work.”

Throughout the 2023-24 school year, the teachers will implement STEM and computing units they developed into their classroom lessons. Ultimately, the program will help identify the strategies that best support teachers’ confidence with integrating science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computing into diverse K-8 classrooms and help create awareness of future careers in tech.

The Innovation Campus’ K-12 Initiatives are grounded in the belief that computer science and STEM education are for all. Through cross sector partnerships, including a key partnership with the City of Alexandria, the Innovation Campus works to transform K-12 education and ensure children have access to the computer science and STEM content and skills needed to thrive in the global society.

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