Updated professional development program debuts at HudsonAlpha

High school science educators attend one-week summer academy

This summer, the Educational Outreach team at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology launched an updated professional development program for high school science educators. Fifteen science teachers from across the state came to HudsonAlpha for GTAC: Advanced Concepts, a week of learning opportunities that delved into the genetics content students encounter in advanced life science classrooms like AP or IB Biology.

“I was totally blown away by my week at GTAC: Advanced Concepts,” said Lori Roberts, who attended the summer academy that is the foundation for the program. “The labs are engaging and current, and I was so surprised to hear what the scientists at HudsonAlpha are doing. Their research is breaking new ground in terms of human health and agriculture. I left GTAC with a renewed zeal and love for genetics.” Roberts is an AP Biology teacher at Muscle Shoals High School.

GTAC, or Genetic Technologies for Alabama Classrooms, is an intensive professional development experience that includes two offerings: GTAC: Essential Biology and GTAC: Advanced Concepts. While Advanced Concepts debuted in 2017, the revamped Essential Biology was offered the last two years. Previously, GTAC was a two-week summer academy. Now, both courses include a one-week summer academy at HudsonAlpha, allowing Essential Biology to focus on genetics concepts from a General Biology course and Advanced Concepts to take a more in-depth look at content that is required in advanced life science courses. This summer, the science teachers participated in talks and panels with scientists involved in cutting edge genomic research, used modern biotech equipment and laboratories, and developed classroom plans.

Nerissa DeRamus, a Pre-AP and AP Biology teacher at Thompson High School who also attended Advanced Concepts this summer, said she intends to incorporate what she learned at Advanced Concepts in her classroom. “I plan to use several of the lab activities and investigations we conducted while at GTAC: Advanced Concepts,” she said. “I also plan to modify my lessons to reflect the current updated research on the topics covered this summer.”

Both Roberts and DeRamus recommend GTAC: Advanced Concepts to their colleagues. “The program views teachers as professionals and helps us acquire tools to improve our practice in genetics education,” Roberts said. “HudsonAlpha can help you dive into the deep.”

DeRamus agrees. “I walked away from this experience with a greater depth of biotechnology knowledge,” she said. “Without this course, I could not teach my students updated content.”

GTAC is made possible through support from the State of Alabama. To learn more, visit hudsonalpha.org/gtac.