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Black Hills State University was presented with the national Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education recently. Dr. June Apaza (left), director of Center for Advancement of Math and Science Education, Dr. Kay Schallenkamp, BHSU president, and Dr. Ben Sayler, director of education and outreach at Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake, accepted the award on behalf of BHSU.

Black Hills State University was presented with the national Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education this week.

The award, presented by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), recognizes excellence and innovation in teacher education programs. This prestigious award is designed to advance the field of teacher education by identifying promising practices and critical issues related to measuring the impact of programs on teacher candidate knowledge and the impact of these teachers on pupil learning.

BHSU was chosen for the award this year for its contributions within an outstanding professional development program called Project PRIME (Promoting Reflective Inquiry in Mathematics Education). Working closely with Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) and other program partners, BHSU has had a profound impact on the teaching and learning of elementary mathematics in South Dakota. BHSU will host a reception to celebrate this prestigious award Thursday, Nov. 3 at 3:30 p.m. in the David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union-Club Buzz.

Project PRIME is a grant-funded initiative that has been in place since 2002. In late 2001, the National Science Foundation (NSF) called for school districts, universities, and other community agencies to join together in partnership to improve math and science education. PRIME was among the very first cohort of NSF awardees in this prestigious and now decade-long funding competition. The partnership consists of Rapid City Area Schools, the Center for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education (CAMSE) at BHSU, Inverness Research Associates, and Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE). This grant, entitled Promoting Reflective Inquiry in Mathematics Education (PRIME), is a professional development initiative designed to improve student achievement in mathematics for one large school district in South Dakota. The original funding for PRIME was five years, but supplemental funding from NSF has allowed the work to continue. The project is now funded through the end of the 2011-2012 school year according to June Apaza, director of CAMSE.

BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp expressed her delight and gratitude when she received news of the award.
“This national recognition is a tribute to the faculty, staff, and students involved, to the innovations in teacher education that have resulted, and to the partnership with the Rapid City School District and TIE that has made it possible,” Schallenkamp says. “Just one award is given each year and Black Hills State University, in recognition of its role within the partnership, was selected for the 2011 award. It is truly an honor for all involved.”

Schallenkamp added that the award is especially gratifying because it honors the University’s initiatives to make innovative changes in teacher preparation programs and work with community partners.

BHSU Professor Ben Sayler serves as principal investigator for the grant and member of the project's director team.

"The McAuliffe award is a testament to vision, leadership, and sustained commitment across the partner institutions," Sayler said. "From day 1, at the highest administrative levels and throughout the workforce of each institution, there has been deep dedication to enhance student learning in mathematics."
The project's director team includes Susie Roth, Deann Kertzman, and Sharon Rendon, as representatives of RCAS; Apaza and Sayler represent BHSU; and James Parry and Maggie Austin represent TIE. Inverness Research serves as external evaluator.

Jolanda M. Westerhof, AASCU's director of teacher education, whose office oversees the award process, said, “The Christa McAuliffe Award recognizes exemplary models of teacher preparation that link program design and professional development to K-12 pupil learning outcomes. Black Hills State University has designed a model of professional development in mathematics that has produced significant and compelling gains for elementary students. This example of an outcomes-based professional development model is one that universities and K-12 districts can look to as they respond to the demand to demonstrate teacher impact on P-12 learning and achievement.”

In a letter explaining why BHSU was chosen to receive the award, Cindy Ross noted that BHSU was selected in part for the advancements the University has instituted in its teacher preparation program in the last decade. These additions include a new math specialization to the master’s program as well as innovative professional development formats for in-service teachers that have continued and expanded in depth and breadth and include a follow-up or follow along format.
“More impressive, however, are the gains in P-12 learning outcomes as a result of the collaborative project, PRIME,” Ross wrote. “The PRIME program provides a stellar example of quality, effective teacher preparation.”

The national award, created in 1987, was named in honor of the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, who died in the 1986 Challenger disaster. McAuliffe received her bachelor’s degree from Framingham State College (Mass.) and her master’s degree from Bowie State University (Md.), both AASCU member institutions.

“AASCU institutions prepare more than half of all teachers licensed to teach each year in the United States, and teacher education continues to be a critical concern for member institutions and the association,” said Westerhof. The 2011 Christa McAuliffe Award was presented during AASCU’s annual meeting Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Boston, Mass.

AASCU is a Washington-based higher education association of nearly 420 public colleges, universities and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.