Interview with Dennis Bartels

In a recent interview, Dennis Bartels, State Director of the SC-SSI, offered his views on the SC-SSI's progress and achievements during its first full year of operation.

Looking back, how would you describe the past year? Several words come to mind: wild, enlightening, fun, challenging, satisfying, exciting. Very exciting, because we've seen concepts evolve into concrete actions that are going to make a big, big difference in our classrooms.

How would you characterize the SSI's work during that time? This was a charting year - a year of setting up our Hubs, assessing the needs of our schools, and identifying the best ways to fulfill those needs.

Would it be fair, then, to say you had limited expectations for the first year's progress? We'd never talked ourselves into believing we could get everything done in a single year, but we had what we thought of as reasonable expectations. We felt like it would take a year to create a solid foundation, and that we would be really aggressive about taking these services out into the schools after the first year. Our Hub staffers apparently had different ideas. To our great gain, they weren't held back by what we considered to be reasonable expectations.

What sort of impact has the SSI had in the classroom so far? Again, this was largely an orientation year for us, so most of the impact will be seen in years to come. But some immediate impact is already evident, especially for those teachers who got involved with their local Hubs early. For instance, we've provided new technologies, teaching materials, and laboratories to many schools. We've also increase student activities that use hands-on, minds-on teaching methods that make math and science more interesting and meaningful.

Can you site some specifics examples of what the Hubs have done in their communities? I'm a little reluctant to do that because there's no way I can mention them all, and I hate to leave anybody out. All the Hubs have done a great job. They've assisted schools across the state with new teaching materials like textbooks, computers, and lab equipment. They've helped entire school districts revise their math and science curricula. They've coordinated citywide and regionwide events in which students interact with each other via computer. I could go on and on. Just to give you an idea of scale, the Piedmont Hub has sponsored 91 events in a nine-month period, involving 3300 teachers, administrators, and community members.

What would you consider to be the SSI's challenges in the year ahead? Our mission has always been the same: to carry the state's best math and science teaching resources to all areas of the state. To do that, we've had to break the job down into stages. Our focus last year was on building a strong catalog of services and resources. Our focus now will be on getting these resources into the schools we haven't reached yet.

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