Matt Cook

Matt Cook is superintendent of the Newark Central School District.

It’s not just local teachers who will benefit from a University of Rochester training program, said Newark School Superintendent Matt Cook. It’s also local students.

Newark and Geneva were recently invited to join the university’s Robert Noyce Master Teaching Fellows Program. It will give four educators from each district the chance to explore math and science education, with the goal of making them master teachers who can mentor their peers.

“I think that when teachers learn from teachers, that’s some really good stuff,” Cook said. “I don’t think there’s any way that our kids don’t end up benefiting throughout the district.”

Kevin Whitaker, Geneva’s assistant superintendent for school improvement and accountability, is also excited about the program.

“One of the most important things is teacher leadership and the empowerment of teachers,” he said. “This allows us to build these — I guess peer coaches would be a good way to put it. ... We think of them as teacher leaders and teacher coaches, those who can learn and stand side by side with their own colleagues as they help and nurture and support.”

The program was established in 2010 with a $3 million grant from Noyce Master Teaching Fellows. It initially served only the Rochester City School District. An additional $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation this year made it possible to expand to two other high-need districts.

“Receiving this new grant will allow us to continue to work to address the critical need to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) instruction in urban classrooms,” Cynthia Callard, the program’s principal investigator, said in a press release. “We are pleased that the National Science Foundation shares our commitment to the support of science and math teachers and has recognized the university’s success with a grant that will enable the program to grow and expand its work. Together, both grants will allow us to increase the number of STEM master teachers in the region who can teach and mentor other educators and have an immediate impact on their students.”

Whitaker and Cook said the local districts’ existing relationships with the university led to them being invited to participate.

The program will train 14 teachers, including those from Newark and Geneva, over the next five years. They will complete 36 hours of post-master’s credits at the University’s Warner School of Education, attend monthly leadership seminars and participate in field experiences.

Participants will receive a stipend of $10,000 a year from the grant funding and a tuition waiver for the coursework.

The first phase of the program provided training to 19 Rochester teachers. The university said they in turn provided professional development to more than 725 Rochester teachers, mentored more than 175 new teachers and took on coaching roles for more than 215 of their peers.

Cook called the program a tremendous opportunity for local teachers.

“One of the things we’re really excited about is the focus on STEM,” he said. “Anything that’s going to help science and math programs and have us thinking about technology in all of those different ways is exciting.”

The selection process is already under way in Geneva and Newark, where a meeting was held recently for teachers from both districts who might be interested. The application process includes letters of recommendation from colleagues and administrators, Cook said.

“It does require quite a commitment on behalf of the teachers, so we need to have people who are going to be willing to put in that multi-year commitment and be willing to provide professional development to their colleagues,” Whitaker said.

Program coursework is slated to begin in January.

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