30 Jun Equipping Baldwin County Teachers for the Future of Education
The Baldwin County Education Coalition is proud to support the eMINTS Comprehensive Program. eMINTS is a training program for educators that offers program participants approximately 200 hours of high-quality, research-based professional development training for 2 years. The goal of the eMINTS program is to help transform the teaching and learning experience in our Baldwin County schools. We spoke with Jeremy King, Education Technology Support Services Counselor, and Katie Nettles, Consulting Teacher – Education Technology Support Services, to learn more about the eMINTS program and to encourage more Baldwin County teachers to apply. Both King and Nettles are eMINTS Certified Affiliate Trainers.
The eMINTS Comprehensive Program began in 2000 in Missouri through a partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Missouri Department of Higher Education and the University of Missouri. The program was born out of the need to help schools and teachers meet the demand of the ever-changing digital age. In 2008, the program made its way to Baldwin County, Alabama and was adopted by the Baldwin County Public School System. Since then, the technological landscape in schools has changed rapidly, and the program’s goal remains the same, to equip teachers with the resources they need to teach with the technology provided to them.
Jeremy King and Katie Nettles are both eMINTS certified and now teach the program. For them, the four keys to the eMINTS program are the most important focus during the participants’ two-year commitment.
The four keys:
- High quality lesson design
- Authentic learning
- Community of learners
- Powered by technology
In conjunction with instruction, how to integrate technology meaningfully into the classroom is crucial to transforming the education experience for teachers and students. High-quality lesson design focuses on valuing self-directed learning for teachers and giving them the opportunity to create lessons that meet the needs of learners. Authentic learning is a foundational piece of the eMINTS model, and helps teachers learn the importance of using real-world projects that prompt students to become problem solvers, critical thinkers, inventors and creators. Community of learners does not only refer to students, but to the community built among the teachers and the trainers that shows students that learning has a life-long place in the community. Lastly, powered by technology acknowledges that technology adds excitement to the classroom, and it is important for teachers to be equipped to use digital tools in their classrooms to enhance the learning experience.
King says that though the program is largely based on helping teachers implement digital tools, it is, at its core, about providing teachers with base level teaching strategies. The program is a two-year commitment for teachers, with 20 sessions a year and 40 sessions total. By the end of the program, teachers have completed roughly 200 hours of professional development training. The program is for all teachers, K-12, and includes a nighttime cohort that is offered yearly, and a daytime cohort offered every two years and born during the COVID-19 quarantine. “We have probably 60% elementary teachers. For secondary teachers, it is harder to make the commitment because of other priorities they have at their schools, but our secondary teachers are some of our best folks,” says King. The program does not focus on a specific grade or subject, and as King notes, “We are not looking for teachers with a specific discipline. If they are willing to come and get into it, then that’s what we are looking for.”
The application process begins every year in the early spring, and teachers who apply know whether they have been accepted by the early summer. The night cohort begins every year in August and runs for two years, with the day cohort beginning every two years. The program sees at least 45 to 60 new participants a year in the night cohort, and with the addition of the day cohort, some years will see roughly 100 participants in Baldwin County. The application is fairly extensive requiring teachers to complete two essays as well as taking a personality test. Teachers are then asked to review the results of the personality test and explain whether they agree or disagree with those results. “We are looking for somebody who can take in the information, who isn’t shut off to new ideas and who will end up getting the most out of it,” says King.
When it comes to letting teachers know about the program, King cites word of mouth as their most powerful tool. “The teachers who have completed the program tell the other teachers in their schools how valuable it is,” says King. In addition to gaining important teaching tools and strategies, the teachers who participate in the program receive added perks. One of these perks is that the teachers in the eMINTS program are paid for their participation in either their nighttime or daytime training. King knows how much of an undertaking the program is for the teachers and being able to financially compensate them for the time they are taking to become better educators is a top priority. Teachers who complete their two years will also have their national certification paid for, and, on top of that, if they pass, they will receive a minimum $5,000 stipend from the State of Alabama. “One major component of the program is that teacher get an eMINTS trainer to come to their classroom on a monthly basis,” Nettles notes. “The trainers can do anything from help teachers navigate the classroom or watch and provide feedback.” This is the component that both Nettles and King think sets eMINTS apart from other professional development programs- the consistent follow-up and commitment to the teachers.
The Coalition has been a partner to the eMINTS program in many ways over the years. Nettles says, “The Coalition has been so generous with us, providing t-shirts to each teacher after they have completed their first year, and being a powerful advocate in the community.” Nettles is grateful to the Coalition to helping wherever the need within the eMINTS program existed whether it be through providing snacks for the teachers or generating funding. In fact, King says that the best way for the Baldwin County community to support the program is to donate to the Coalition, and that this ultimately helps eMINTS. However, King also notes that no one would ever be turned down for wanting to help in any way outside of funding. “There are so many things we could be doing to enhance the program for the teachers. Could we do something like provide lunches for our daytime people? Are there additional things we could provide for the nighttime folks,” King ponders. “I would love to find a way for community members to see some of the teaching in action, see people at their schools using the tools given to them,” says king. All in all, the ultimate goal is to enhance the education in Baldwin County schools.