Ten years ago, Georgia established a professional development program designed to increase the skills of current teachers and encourage high school students to take challenging math and science courses.

Known as Georgia Industrial Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT), the program matches teachers with companies in the state for summertime fellowships of approximately six weeks. Through these fellowships, teachers work side-by-side with scientists and researchers on real-world projects. This adds another dimension to their knowledge about science and mathematics. With this knowledge, teachers are better able to relate classroom lessons to real-world impacts for their students during the academic year.

For example, science teachers have helped employees of Georgia Power’s Environmental Laboratory collect water samples. Other teachers have helped DNA researchers in laboratories at Georgia Tech University.

A few pieces of advice from the people who developed the GIFT program:

• Get university and corporate leaders committed to providing high-quality fellowship opportunities;

• Communicate to school board members and administrators how the program will improve science and math education;

• Show potential sponsor companies that the fellowship participants are capable and eager workers;

• Require that teachers who participate in the program share their experiences with their students;

• Encourage graduates of the program to be mentors in subsequent years;

• Gather data and testimonials that illustrate the value of the program; and

• Create a web site for companies to learn about the program and for teachers to submit applications and provide required follow-up information.

abstracted from “Hands-On Professional Development”
T.H.E. Journal, October 2001, page 42