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School's out for students, but Beaufort County teachers are still hitting the books this summer.
About 60 teachers are studying for a master's degree through one of the Beaufort County School District's largest professional development efforts.
The CORE program, in its second year, aims to boost math and science education. Teachers from elementary, middle and high schools across the county are taking courses to learn new teaching techniques.
The program is funded by a three-year $90,000 federal grant.
Some teachers are spending whole days at the district office learning new ways to teach math.
Science teachers are headed to the Charleston area Tuesday to learn about the 1886 earthquake, said Kate Olin, grants coordinator with the district's instructional services department.
The program is designed to help more than just the 60 teachers who will earn master's degrees from the University of South Carolina next spring. Ed Dickey, USC director of education outreach, said teachers in the program take what they learn back to their schools and teach their colleagues. Dickey worked with Olin to develop the program, which hinges on courses taught by USC professors in the evenings and on weekends in Beaufort County.
Teachers say they've already used some of what they've learned in their classrooms.
Both Hilton Head Island High School math teacher Dora Fletcher and Bluffton High School science teacher Margaret DiPietro said they introduced more reading into their science and math classes through a technique called "book in a day."
In the technique, a text -- such as a nonfiction book or a long article -- is split into parts. Groups of students read each part and report what they learned to the class, which then discusses the text as a group.
"One of the problems as a math teacher to committing to reading and writing is the time commitment," Fletcher said. "Book in a day" ended that concern and allowed teachers to instruct across curriculums.
Fletcher also said her math department, which has five teachers in the program, has worked to spread the techniques to all math courses at Hilton Head High. CORE teachers have paired with math teachers who are not in the program to discuss tips and fine-tune lesson plans.
And that makes Dickey happy.
"We wanted to help lay a foundation of teacher leaders," he said.
Both Fletcher and DiPietro said they've already seen a payoff. DiPietro boosted the genetics unit in her Advanced Placement biology class and even took her students to the USC genetics lab, where they met one of her professors and studied their own DNA.
"The students were so excited, and not just about science, but to be at a college," she said. "That program allowed this to happen."