Craig Berg, professor of curriculum and instruction in the School of Education, has been selected to receive one of two 2011 Annual Regents Teaching Awards from the University of Wisconsin System.
The awards recognize and reward outstanding teachers from among all the University of Wisconsin System institutions.
Berg, who directs the Milwaukee Collaborative Science and Mathematics Teacher Education Program (MACSTEP), focuses on preparing exemplary science teachers. Great teachers, he says, are the key to getting elementary, middle and high school students excited about science
“Student’s attitudes toward science, their interest in taking more science, almost always depend on the quality of the teachers teaching science,” he says. “One excellent science teacher can make a huge difference in student attitudes and their desire to continue working toward a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) career.”
With the U.S. lagging behind other countries in the number of college students graduating in these vital STEM fields, increasing the number of top-notch teachers is vital, says Berg.
In his work with MACSTEP and other projects, Berg works closely with science faculty, precollege programs and experienced Milwaukee area teachers on efforts to improve teaching techniques and content knowledge.
Among the many projects he is, or has been involved in, with current and aspiring teachers:
He is co-principal investigator on a $1.4 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) with David Petering, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center. Through that grant, Berg works with UWM faculty and high school science teachers to develop environmental health sciences units that involve high school students in hands-on experiments on environmental health issues. The high school students recently presented their work at UWM.
Berg has also worked for the last twelve years with the GEAR UP program, which provides professional development for teachers. In addition, the program gets middle and high students in Milwaukee schools and their teachers engaged in science, engineering and technology. Some of hands-on projects include activities like building and testing water bottle rockets and mousetrap-powered race cars.
With Tracy Posnanski, a colleague in the School of Education, Berg helped 60 MPS science teachers improve their knowledge of science and their teaching techniques through a BEST (Better Elementary Science Teaching) grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Teaching science is a subject Berg is passionate about. Good STEM teaching requires as much hands-on activity as possible, he says. That means finding supplies, scrounging equipment and making time to plan lessons that get students interested, engaged and learning in a manner that results in a robust understanding of science.
“There are many science teachers who display exemplary teaching, and orchestrate classroom activities that have students totally engaged,” he says. “These teachers are excited about science and about teaching science, and their students reap the benefits of a professional and finely honed approach to teaching science.”
The Regents award letter recognizes that passion, reading: “The award pays tribute to your impressive dedication as a teacher and to your profound ability to inspire in your students an enthusiasm for both science teacher education and for learning in general.”
Berg says: “Being recognized for teaching is the ultimate honor, but my teaching is an amalgam and a reflection of many things, including the great mentor I had at the undergraduate level, the incredible professors I had in my graduate science teacher education programs at Iowa, and for the last 22 years here at Milwaukee, I have learned so much from local exemplary teachers, and learned a great deal from the incredible students I have worked with in the MACSTEP program. I want to thank them and share this with them.”
The other winners this year are Dr. Regan A.R. Gurung, a professor of Human Development and Psychology at UW-Green Bay; and the Professional Program in Education, also from UW-Green Bay.