Public School Teachers Complete Yale Program

Yale National Fellows Lead Professional Efforts for Their Communities

September 8, 2020

Forty-nine public school teachers from seventeen school districts in ten states and the District of Columbia have completed national seminars and an Intensive Session as part of the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools®.

Thirty-six of the teachers, named Yale National Fellows, are from school districts that are planning or exploring the establishment of a new Teachers Institute for Chicago, IL; the District of Columbia; Pittsburgh, PA; Richmond, VA; San José, CA; Tulsa, OK; and Texas. Other National Fellows come from existing Teachers Institutes located on the Diné Nation, AZ and NM; and in New Castle County, DE; New Haven, CT; and Philadelphia, PA. Overall, more than half of the National Fellows are participating in national seminars for the first time.

The purposes of the national seminars are to provide public school teachers deeper knowledge of the subjects they teach and first-hand experience with the Teachers Institute approach to high-quality professional development. This reinforces their leadership in an existing Teachers Institute or prepares them to lead the development of a new Teachers Institute. Each teacher writes a curriculum unit to teach their students about the seminar subject and to share with other teachers in their school district and, through the website at, with teachers anywhere. The curriculum units implement academic standards of the teachers’ school districts and assist the teachers in engaging and educating the students in their school courses.

The 2020 seminars, which were conducted online, began on May 1 and concluded in mid-August:

  • “American History through American Lives,” led by David C. Engerman, Leitner International Interdisciplinary Professor of History;
  • “Teaching about Race and Racism Across the Disciplines,” led by Daniel Martinez HoSang, Associate Professor of Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, and of American Studies;
  • “Solving Environmental Problems through Engineering,” led by Jordan Peccia, Thomas E. Golden, Jr. Professor of Environmental Engineering;
  • “Politics and Public Policy in the United States,” led by Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science; and
  • “Caretakers versus Exploiters: Impacting Biodiversity in the Age of Humans,” led by Paul E. Turner, Rachel Carson Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

A National Fellow served as the Coordinator of each seminar. The Coordinators were Carol P. Boynton of New Haven, Connecticut; Cristobal Carambo of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Valerie J. Schwarz of Richmond, Virginia; Vanessa Vitug of San José, California; and Krista B. Waldron of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Between July 6 and 17 National Fellows attended ten two-hour daily meetings of their seminars and conferred individually with their seminar leader. Between July 6 and 10 twenty-three faculty members from eight universities that are partners or prospective partners in a local Teachers Institute took part in a four-day program on the Institute approach. They observed national seminars and learned about faculty roles within an Institute. They met with national seminar leaders about what they observed, and with other experienced seminar leaders about the seminar and curriculum unit writing process.

The team from each location conferred with the Director of the Yale National Initiative, James R. Vivian, about the ways their experience in the national program strengthens their leadership in an existing Teachers Institute or prepares them to lead the establishment of a new Teachers Institute. Five Fellows were named their districts’ teacher Representatives for the coming year. The Representatives, who are responsible for planning and implementing Initiative activities locally and nationally, are:

Brandon Barr Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL
Sean Means Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh, PA
Zachary Meyers District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, DC
Valerie J. Schwarz Richmond Public Schools, Richmond, VA
Mark Hartung School Districts in San José, CA: East Side Union High School District, Franklin-McKinley School District, and San José Unified School District

Superintendents will join the National Fellows for the online Annual Conference on October 24.

The Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools, now in its sixteenth year, is a long-term endeavor to influence public policy on teacher professional development, in part by establishing exemplary Teachers Institutes for high-poverty, high-minority schools in states around the country. Following the approach developed in New Haven and implemented in other cities, it builds upon the success of a four-year National Demonstration Project.

Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts designed to strengthen teaching and learning in a community’s high-need public schools. Evaluations have shown that the Institute approach exemplifies the characteristics of high-quality teacher professional development, enhances teacher quality in the ways known to improve student achievement, and encourages participants to remain in teaching in their schools.

Yale National Initiative®, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute®, and League of Teachers Institutes® are registered trademarks of Yale University.