Professional Development

EDUCATORS: Did you know that VISTA will pay YOU to innovate science education in Virginia?  

It's true! Plus, VISTA offers access to resources and ongoing professional development opportunities for educators through our community of practice. Key to this community is our online statewide science teacher portal, MyVISTA (coming soon), complete with discussion groups and interactive communities where teachers can share their latest lesson plans or discuss educational policy.

VISTA'S professional development programs are empowering hundreds of science educators across the state to use an active style of teaching that engages students in the classroom and beyond. Collectively, these professionals impact around 625,000 students statewide.

How do we do it? VISTA helps teachers harness the potential of every student through hands-on, problem-based learning (PBL). VISTA's innovative approach to science teaching shows teachers how to create "real world" student scientists.

Students work in collaborative groups to address timely and exciting issues that are relevant not only to their communities but to the future of our world-issues like how to create a more energy independent Virginia, build a rocket, or clean up a local river.

Not only do we invest in elementary, middle and high school science teachers, we also help hone the leadership skills of school division science coordinators who work closely with teachers and administrators every day. We even take it a step further, providing college science education faculty (those who "teach the teachers") with opportunities to network and expand their knowledge of current research in science teaching and learning.

VISTA's proven methods are backed by solid research on student achievement; teacher effectiveness and growth; and the relationship between school administrators/key stakeholders on the policies surrounding science education.

What does VISTA mean for teachers and students?

Unlike some teachers who stand at the front of the class and deliver a lecture, teachers trained in VISTA's professional development programs understand how to facilitate the learning process by helping students discuss the problem at hand and ask questions (known as "inquiry"); engage in self-directed learning; apply their knowledge to the problem; and reflect on the effectiveness of the solutions they've proposed.

Click here for more information on these "best practices" in science teaching.

What can VISTA do for you?

Teachers who receive free professional development training can also receive a stipend or course tuition, all-expenses-paid attendance to state conferences, science materials, and more.

  • For teams of 4th-6th grade elementary teachers, VISTA offers a four-week summer institute and follow-up sessions focus on enhancing science content knowledge and improving both science teaching and student performance.
  • New middle and high school science teachers (grades 6-12) can attend two three-credit graduate courses designed specifically for early career teachers.
  • School division science coordinators with five years or less experience can attend a five-day academy (three days fall, two days spring) to focus on leadership, strategic planning and networking.
  • Science education faculty - those who teach science education or science for educators classes — can attend a five-day academy in the spring to learn about new research, share teaching strategies, and help build a statewide community of practice.
  • Qualified instructional coaches can provide specialized coach/mentor support for the aforementioned elementary, middle or high school science teachers in partnering VISTA schools.

Read more about our professional development programs in our full grant narrative at the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Watch VISTA in action: