GEAR UP Iowa, Iowa College Aid’s program that works with schools in 12 Iowa districts to help encourage college attainment, follows a group of students from middle school all the way through the first year of college. As the current GEAR UP Iowa cohort finishes their second year of the program and prepares for the transition from middle school to high school, it’s important to remember the impact that the teachers and staff at GEAR UP Iowa schools make on students.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Ft. Dodge Middle School teacher John Newman reflects on the experience of working with GEAR UP Iowa students and the additional educational opportunities the program helped fund.
At Ft. Dodge, Newman used GEAR UP Iowa funds to develop a summer program focused on hands-on STEM activities for students, including constructing water rocket launchers and cardboard furniture. They also used 3-D computer modeling and experimented with electric wiring to make a bug. Students also had the opportunity to visit the Science Center of Iowa. At the end of each day, students were given time to reflect on what they had learned and how they will apply their knowledge in the future.
Newman’s reflections on his experience reflects the passion that we celebrate this week in Iowa’s teachers, a passion for learning and engaging students.
It has been absolutely amazing working with 8th grade students and helping them realize the power of an education thanks to the GEAR UP Iowa program. Talking to middle school students about the possibility of going to college and providing them with a college experience has really helped create a “college going” culture in our school.
Whether offering tutoring sessions to help provide that extra support to help students meet the demands of the classroom or engaging students in active learning practices via the summer camp I organized, GEAR UP Iowa has certainly changed the way I engage with students. I’ve integrated what I call “college talk” into my lessons by helping students dig deeper into their thinking and helping them make connection of their learning to world outside of school.
So many of our students are told that college isn’t an option for them or they have no idea how they can get there. Working with my students and the GEAR UP Iowa program was truly rewarding for me as an educator. Hearing students at the middle school level talking to their peers about what college they want to go to just fills you up with pride and hope for the next generation.