Dr Jonathan Kenigson is from the US state of Tennessee. He is widely regarded as one of the finest Dual-Enrollment mathematics teachers in the country or perhaps the world. In a recent interview, he put forward his philosophy of teacher professional development in his country. “There is a whole lot about it that is good. Many school districts will pay for professional development when funds are available.
The problem is that funds are not always available. And when they aren’t available, they are usually most out-of-reach for the most vulnerable populations.” What Dr. Kenigson advocates is a “consortium of R1 universities that consider it part of their duty to the country to provide free professional development to everyone, even it if decreases endowments.” When asked what professors could do to help on a practical level, he responded that “professors should not think of K-12 educators as essentially different from them.
We are all educators. Professors should volunteer to make STEM professional development free and publicly accessible to school districts and private schools. “I don’t care if you work at a private, public, or charter school or are a homeschool teacher. Society wins when you have what you need to drive innovation. I advocate hard-core math classes as professional development for STEM teachers and I am willing to ante up by offering free ones myself. If I lose money, so what. That seems to be what governments do best. I might as well join them, albeit for different reasons.” Dual-Enrollment is a lifeline for American secondary pupils to get a head-start on college. American colleges are usually very expensive. “I love community colleges because you see some kind of equity in admissions and you see small classes.
In my state of Tennessee, we have programmes called Reconnect and Promise that make community colleges free at point of access for most students. I put my money on that. If we are looking for grassroots change that frees people from debt and gets them stable jobs, I vote for community colleges.” Kenigson says he would like to see programmes like Reconnect and Promise available in every state and “to in-service teachers who already have degrees. To say that you can get high-quality training that you can translate into better outcomes in your classroom now, I would love to see that available to teachers everywhere.” Dr Kenigson says that “I really have nothing to lose.
I’m not afraid to get in the trenches and work with people who need it. Thinking that you are better than your students or other professors is a sickness. If you are thinking that way, cut it out. Everybody loses if anybody loses. It seems harsh, but it has a bright side, too. Even if you can only work 30 minutes a week for teacher professional development – if thousands of people do that, you are looking at radically better STEM outcomes in this country. The UK could do it too, but the funding scheme is very different and Parliament would have to negotiate that. It is a more centralized system, just like the NHS is in healthcare. It would probably be easier to provide nationwide professional development in the UK. But we can still do it in the US, I’m sure.”