NHS grad­u­ate se­lected for VSU science ini­tia­tive

The Covington News - - EDUCATION - JESSICA R. POPE Spe­cial to the News sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

A self-de­scribed “lab rat,” Gre­gory A. Jack­son, 22, spent the sum­mer tucked away in­side his home away from home, the Val­dosta State Univer­sity Hugh C. Bai­ley Science Cen­ter. The se­nior chem­istry ma­jor, a 2009 grad­u­ate of New­ton High School, helped de­velop a col­lec­tion of science ex­per­i­ments for an up­com­ing pub­lic school road show and also con­ducted re­search into the use of cop­per to treat tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and, pos­si­bly, can­cer.

“I like be­ing in the lab,” he said. “I like to run dif­fer­ent tests and en­joy the hands-on, science, re­search side of chem­istry.”

Jack­son, son of Greg Jack­son Sr. and Bar­bara Jack­son of Cov­ing­ton, en­tered VSU as a fresh­man in Au­gust 2009. He knew he wanted to pur­sue a Bach­e­lor of Science de­gree in chem­istry, and he was cer­tain that he wanted to work in in­dus­try, in the area of re­search and de­vel­op­ment. He spent a cou­ple of sum­mers in­tern­ing with FiberVi­sions Cor­po­ra­tion, a North Ge­or­gia-based com­pany known as a world leader in de­vel­op­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and mar­ket­ing poly­olefin sta­ple fibers for non­wo­ven ap­pli­ca­tions.

Roughly three months ago, how­ever, Dr. Thomas J. Man­ning, a pro­fes­sor in VSU’s Depart­ment of Chem­istry, pre­sented Jack­son with an al­ter­nate ca­reer path — as a mid­dle school or high school science teacher. He con­sid­ered the pro­posal, and fol­low­ing a rig­or­ous se­lec­tion process, was ac­cepted by the Val­dosta Noyce Schol­ars Science Teacher Prepa­ra­tion and Re­ten­tion pro­ject.

“It sounded good, and I had al­ready thought about teach­ing later on, af­ter work­ing a few years in the in­dus­try field,” Jack­son said. “I fig­ured I could just al­ter my timeline and teach for a lit­tle while, then work in in­dus­try, and pos­si­bly re­turn to teach­ing.”

“I’ve been go­ing to school my whole life,” he added. “I think it’ll be nice to be on the other side of the class­room, and I know I’ll en­joy hav­ing an im­pact on a child’s life. I have never for­got­ten some of my teach­ers and how they in­flu­enced my life. Also, I’m young, and I love chem­istry. I re­ally think the stu­dents will ap­pre­ci­ate that.”

Through a part­ner­ship with the Val­dosta City School Sys­tem and an award of nearly $1.2 mil­lion from the National Science Foun­da­tion, VSU ex­pects to more than dou­ble the num­ber of science teach­ers it grad­u­ates each year.

The first co­hort of aca­dem­i­cally tal­ented, fi­nan­cially needy astron­omy, geo­sciences, bi­ol­ogy, chem­istry, and physics stu­dents was re­cruited for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the new Val­dosta Noyce Schol­ars Science Teacher Prepa­ra­tion and Re­ten­tion pro­ject be­fore the end of the 2012-2013 aca­demic year. Many stu­dents ap­plied. Jack­son was among the

Gre­gory A. Jack­son grad­u­ated from New­ton High School in 2009 be­fore pur­su­ing a bachlor’s de­gree in chem­istry from Val­dosta State Univer­sity. nine se­lected.

Through the Val­dosta Noyce Schol­ars Science Teacher Prepa­ra­tion and Re­ten­tion pro­ject, Jack­son, as well as his fel­low par­tic­i­pants, will ob­tain a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in a science ma­jor and teach­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion through a fifthyear post-bac­calau­re­ate pro­gram — all at VSU. He will par­tic­i­pate in field ex­pe­ri­ences in schools within the Val­dosta City School Sys­tem and also have the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in sum­mer in­tern­ships. He will re­ceive a schol­ar­ship of up to $12,000 per year to cover the cost of col­lege at­ten­dance, in­clud­ing tuition, fees, books and sup­plies, hous­ing, etc.

“Cur­rently, in the state of Ge­or­gia, if a stu­dent wants to be­come a high school science teacher, they must com­plete their un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree and then en­roll in fur­ther classes to ac­quire their ed­u­ca­tion and ped­a­gogy course­work,” ex­plained Dr. Brian L. Ger­ber, pro­fes­sor and act­ing dean of the James L. and Dorothy H. De­war Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion and Hu­man Ser­vices. “This can cre­ate a fi­nan­cial bur­den for the stu­dent. This grant elim­i­nates that worry as it pays for up to three years of tuition — their last two years to com­plete their un­der­grad­u­ate science de­gree and then their year of course­work in the [De­war] Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion [and Hu­man Ser­vices] to ob­tain their ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses. Ad­di­tion­ally, it pays them for sum­mer work with sci­en­tists, six weeks for each of two sum­mers at $450 per week. This is a very gen­er­ous pro­gram that elim­i­nates the fi­nan­cial bur­den that could have pre­vi­ously hin­dered a stu­dent from mak­ing the de­ci­sion of be­com­ing a science teacher.”

Jack­son spent this past sum­mer work­ing on a va­ri­ety of projects, in­clud­ing a science road show of more than two dozen science ex­per­i­ments and con­trol­ling tu­ber­cu­lo­sis bac­terium us­ing a cop­per ion, with Man­ning. He also sub­mit­ted a patent ap­pli­ca­tion to the United States Patent and Trade­mark Of­fice and helped to put to­gether about 30 hours of video demon­stra­tions of ex­per­i­ments for fresh­men chem­istry stu­dents.

Jack­son be­lieves the hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence he gained this sum­mer will only make him a more ef­fec­tive teacher. He wants his fu­ture stu­dents to know that science can be a lot of fun, as well as ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing.

“The sum­mer in­tern­ships will al­low the Noyce schol­ars the abil­ity to gain deeper science knowl­edge and ap­ply that knowl­edge to real-world ex­pe­ri­ences,” Ger­ber said. “We have a great group of sci­en­tists here at VSU that are highly in­volved in cut­ting-edge re­search and ap­pli­ca­tions of science. The Noyce schol­ars work­ing with th­ese ex­perts will gain a tremen­dous amount of con­fi­dence in the science they know and the abil­ity to ap­ply that knowl­edge in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. This real-world ex­pe­ri­ence will trans­late to bet­ter teach­ing in the class­room and higher lev­els of learn­ing by their stu­dents.”

A sec­ond co­hort of science ma­jors will be se­lected dur­ing the 2013-2014 aca­demic year, said Ger­ber, who serves as prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor and pro­ject di­rec­tor along with Man­ning. Each of the pro­ject par­tic­i­pants agree to teach in a high-need and eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged high school or mid­dle school a min­i­mum of two years for ev­ery one year they ben­e­fit from pro­ject funds.

“This is a very ex­cit­ing pro­ject, which we have ev­ery hope will pro­duce highly qual­i­fied and ex­cit­ing science teach­ers,” Ger­ber said. “Our na­tion lags be­hind in­ter­na­tional peers in terms of science achieve­ment. Through this grant, Val­dosta State Univer­sity has been rec­og­nized as a place where in­no­va­tive science teacher prepa­ra­tion oc­curs through the en­gage­ment of fac­ulty across cam­pus and teach­ers within our lo­cal schools.’’

-- Jessica R. Pope is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ists in the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Depart­ment at Val­dosta State Univer­sity.

Pied­mont Acad­emy opened up its 2013-14 school year Mon­day with a to­tal en­roll­ment of 297 stu­dents, 45 of whom are new stu­dents.

There are 18 stu­dents in preschool; 93 stu­dents in grades K-5 through fifth; 76 in mid­dle school; and 110 in high school. Twenty-five per­cent of this year’s stu­dent body has alumni par­ents or grand­par­ents.

The Acad­emy draws stu­dents from a 10-county area. Jasper County rep­re­sents 46 per­cent of

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