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Teachers become students during summer training

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In a lab room at Legacy High School in Bismarck, a group of about 10 teachers calculated how many calories are in a single cheese puff by lighting it on fire.

Hiral Mathur, a chemistry teacher consultant from Texas, circled the group, looking to answer any questions they might have on their (somewhat) edible assignment.

Mitch Meyer beckoned Mathur over to his desk, as he was troubleshooting his calculations. He first had to determine the equation needed to find the number of calories in one Cheeto.

Food calories are proportionate to how much heat is given off, so these educators discovered how many calories the Cheeto has by burning it and measuring the temperature change in a soda can filled with water.

Meyer, a high school sciences teacher in Minot, prefers more hands-on learning, which explains why he attended Wednesday's teacher training program offered by the National Math and Science Initiative, a Dallas-based nonprofit that aims to improve teaching of science, technology, engineering and math.

Meyer said he favors labs rather than lectures, and he hopes to be able to teach the new materials he learns during the four-day training to his students.

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"It makes it a lot more enjoyable for them, and then it put things into perspective," he said.

The free training program was held this week at Legacy High School. More than 180 teachers statewide signed up for the program, and this is the third consecutive summer the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction has hosted NMSI's teacher training sessions.

The training is funded in part by a grant from ExxonMobil and state money. Throughout the day, math and science teachers went to various classes to brush up on their skills.

In one classroom, teachers classified imaginary extraterrestrial creatures into their respective genus and species. They identified certain similar characteristics and used Google Translate to give them an official Latin-sounding name.

The goal of the training is to get classroom instructors more knowledgable about the subjects they teach, said Juan Elizondo, director of communications for NMSI.

"The way to help kids … is to help teachers," Elizondo said. "You can’t have engaged students if you don’t have engaged teachers."

Teachers who attended the training said it helps them learn the content before they teach it.

"We teach and then we become the students in the summer, so we can kind of see what the students go through,” said Tasha Martin, a high school math teacher in Kidder County-Steel.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or


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