With 22 years as a teacher, Doug Selby's teacher toolbox might have been considered pretty close to full. But when Selby started his 23rd year as an educator recently as a Jamestown High School science teacher, it was evident that there had been room for a few new tricks of the trade.
Co-Mo Electric Cooperative sponsored Selby at the first ever Teacher Education Program, a two-day college course taught through the University of Missouri by Dr. Leon Schumacher. The course, called Energy in Today's Classroom, brought together 15 educators from around mid-Missouri to learn about different ways to teach today's young people the finer points of electricity and electricity delivery.
The genesis for the course came from two former educators who are now stalwarts in the electric cooperative world, Stan Varner and Keith Mueller. The duo is well known to kids in Co-Mo Country for the energy efficiency and electric safety classes they teach in area schools. It was a concern over how kids were being taught electricity that lead Varner and Mueller to explore creating a course that would earn local educators a graduate-school credit while helping them learn more about energy.
Ken Johnson, the cooperative's CEO and general manager, was in great support of the program.
"There is so much information out there about energy, the economics behind its production and distribution, and also electricity in general that our teachers and students hear about from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, a lot of it isn't exactly balanced or thorough," Johnson said. "We were very happy to have formed this alliance with the University of Missouri and to have helped develop a curriculum that gives a more balanced look at energy and electricity."
Electric cooperatives from around middle Missouri selected teachers from among their school districts to sponsor for the two-day class, held Aug. 6 and 7 at the university's Agricultural Engineering building. In return for their attendance and participation, the teachers were able to earn one graduate-school credit free of cost to them. A second credit is available if they complete a project on energy education curriculum assigned by Schumacher.
The course featured talks from many distinguished speakers, including Boone Electric Cooperative's Chris Rohlfing, who spoke on the basics of energy, and Dr. Anthony Lupo of the University of Missouri, who talked about atmospheric science.
Lupo's research looks critically at assertions that man is primarily responsible for climatic change and examines planetary-scale atmospheric process that historically have contributed to these changes. His conclusion is that the verdict is still out on the root causes of climate change, and he pointed to historical changes that show variations such as what we have seen in the recent past have been seen during other times in the planet's existence.
The course also featured a tour of the university's power generation station and discussions of alternative fuels such as biomass and wind generation.
"That really was the main point of the course, to give our educations a full and complete picture of energy, energy production and the future of energy production, and I think the instructors accomplished that mission," Johnson said.
Selby did not go home from the course empty handed. Each teacher was given a box of supplies to talk back to their classroom to assist them in teaching the material they learned. But Selby left with more than that.
"I came away with a lot of respect for the local co-op," he said. "What they do is not simple. There are a lot of different things they have to weigh. It takes a lot of good quality people who are educated in their respective roles. I have a higher level of trust in my cooperative"
Selby said he learned a lot about electricity and the cooperative business model. He said he realized co-ops aren't making decisions based on revenue generation because they are not-for-profit and member-owned.
"There's no conflict of interest from Co-Mo, since they work for us," he said.
Plans are already underway for a second Teacher Education Program in 2014. The program is aimed at middle school and high school science or agriculture teachers. Co-Mo will sponsor those who teach in a school within Co-Mo's service territory, though the school itself does not have to be served by Co-Mo. Teachers who would like more information about the program or want to express their interest should email program coordinator John Agliata at firstname.lastname@example.org.