Proficiency test scores have improved in the Beaver district project.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Richard Roberts has learned that there's more to poetry than rhyme.
The fourth-grader gave a demonstration of just that to a room full of educators Tuesday, singing the "Li Li Blues" about the trials of living with his 18-month-old sister Aliyah.
Richard, a pupil at McGuffey Elementary School in Warren, is one of many who have benefited from a five-year partnership between Youngstown State University and the Warren, Youngstown and Beaver school districts.
The Tri-County Partnership for Excellence in Teacher Education, funded through a $2.5 million federal teacher quality grant, paired YSU faculty with local classroom teachers and placed classroom teachers in YSU teacher education courses. The group held its final workshop and luncheon Tuesday with pupils as guests.
"The main purpose was to improve the quality of teacher education programs so we could produce high quality teachers," said Dr. Mary Lou DiPillo, associate dean at YSU's Beeghly College of Education.
While YSU faculty taught new methods to local teachers, they brought back ideas for the education program at YSU and there have been changes to several courses, DiPillo said. Further, classroom teachers who came on campus also helped refine education curriculum.
Richard has learned poetry from Dr. Steven Reese, an associate professor of English at YSU, during his third- and fourth-grade years. He dedicated his "Blues" to the professor.
Third-graders Jared Hawks and Kayla Pakulniewicz also worked with Reese. Jared said he most likes rhyming couplets and limericks. Kayla likes parodies and when Reese brings instruments -- a guitar, a banjo, an accordion -- to class.
In Youngstown, pupils at Hayes Middle School learned hands-on approaches from YSU's Roy McCullough, a science consultant for the grant program who also teaches in the physics department.
Hayes seventh-grader Shaquilla Lawson said that she now thinks about science when she watches her sister's lava lamp and that McCullough's use of small cars helped her understand Newton's Laws of Motion.
Classmate Bruce Cuevas said he learned how dry ice was used to create a special effect in the music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
"It's easier to understand if you describe it with demonstrations," Shaquilla said.
"Because instead of learning from a textbook and just reading it, we get to do it with activities," Bruce added.
Pupils at Beaver's West Point Elementary have worked on math skills with YSU's Dr. Hy Kim, a professor of teacher education. There, fourth-grade proficiency test scores in math are constantly moving up, he said.
"He showed us fun ways to learn different problems, and we learned games," said third-grader Alison Buchheit.
Emily Meredith, a fourth-grader, said this year's math was "a lot different ... better" than last year. "Instead of just using paper and pencil, we were actually doing it hands-on," she said.
But the youngsters aren't the only ones learning.
Third-grade McGuffey teacher Laurie Phythyon said she would not have done the type of poetry workshop she does now if Reese had not come to the classroom. Pat Kennedy, who also teaches third grade at McGuffey, said she had never taught poetry before but now sees how pupils who struggle in reading have been able to excel with poems.
Paul Volpe, science teacher at Hayes, said that he had not been trained in hands-on methods when he was in college and that working with McCullough has changed the way he teaches.
"The more I'm around him, the more I learn and the easier it becomes for me to do those things," he said.