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DHS hosts AMSTI summer institute

DEMOPOLIS — Contrary to popular belief, not all teachers get the summer holidays completely off from school. In fact, at least 130 teachers from West Alabama have spent the last week and a half at Demopolis High School for training with the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, or AMSTI for short.

According to DHS principal Dr. Isaac Espy, this is the first summer institute to be held in Demopolis.

“We have been asked to host different things here before because of auditorium facilities,” he said. “So we are excited and proud to be able to do this and have asked the teachers to more or less make themselves at home.”

Memie Mitchell is a kindergarten-fifth grade AMSTI specialist, and helped coordinate the last two weeks’ events. Elementary school teachers spent last week learning new science strategies and this week learning about math, while middle school teachers have been focusing on math for the whole of the training.

“I’ve seen a lot of programs come and go,” Mitchell, who taught for 27 years, said. “But I think this one will really make a difference on helping our students to think critically and give them skills that go beyond the classroom.”

The emphasis of the training is to equip teachers with new strategies to help them teach required concepts. Another important part of the training is to have teacher incorporate more hands-on activities in their classrooms.

Carol Covington, an AMSTI trainer who worked with the kindergarten teachers Wednesday, said the program is one that definitely helps teachers expand their usual techniques and allow them to think out side the box.

Just one of the activities teachers did Wednesday included the fourth grade teacher group constructing a mural-sized representation of the number 1,000. Mitchell explained the activity helps students to get a concrete representation of what large numbers like, which will then help them to not be afraid to do math with them.

Sixth grade teachers all drew a topic out of a hat and prepared a presentation on it to be shared with the group at the end of the week. Cassandra Hall, a teacher at Greensboro East Elementary, said the program was overwhelming at first.

“But I’ve had a good time with it,” she said.

Mitchell said another part of this summer’s training is to help motivate and encourage teachers for the upcoming year, as motivated teachers are important in motivating students.

The AMSTI program was implemented by the state department of education in 2001, after seeing a need for improvement across the state. AMSTI schools are required to get 80 percent of their faculty to commit to two consecutive summer institutes of training. Mitchell said this is the third summer institute they have done in this area in conjunction with the University of Alabama and the University of West Alabama.