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Middle School Institute for Teaching Excellence

The Institute for Teaching Excellence Middle School educator professional development sessions include: Science, Math, and Social Studies.  Our Institute for Teaching Excellence for English is the same week as TCU’s AP English Institute. To register for the Institute for Teaching Excellence High School Classes or any Institute for Teaching Excellence English Class, please visit the AP website.

Important note, TEA has granted training approval funding for attending TCU’s Institute for Teaching Excellence for all Middle School and High School Participants. To read more information, please click here.

Dates:  June 12-14, 2024 (Wednesday-Friday)

Time: 8:00 – 4:30

Where: In-person training at TCU or Online. Please note, TCU reserves the right to move to a virtual learning environment or in-person with a variety of factors to consider. Registrants will be notified of any change.

Registration Tuition:
Early Registration: $500 (until April 15, 2024)
Standard Registration: $550 (April 16- May 24, 2024)
Priority Rush Registration: $600 (begins May 25, 2024)

Click to download the MS ITE Registration Form 2024.

Click to register online or click below on the individual session to register.

Institute for Teaching Excellence: Middle School Mathematics

Presentation Team: Jennifer Nicholson, Joel Bezaire, Christie Fish, Stacy Hughes

Institute for Teaching Excellence: Middle School Mathematics

The challenges of the past two years provide a unique context for growth and professional development.  In education, we are faced with an opportunity to redefine “normal” in how we practice the craft of teaching mathematics.  Join us for a three-day in-person workshop where we will explore pedagogical strategies for nurturing math skills that are non-expirable and inspiring our students to move beyond answer-getting to mathematical thinking.

Led by master teachers (and life-long learners), participants will explore common misconceptions, extensions, and complexity of Numerical Relationships, Algebraic Relationships, and Probability, Statistics, and Data Analysis in mixed grade-level groups.  These groups will engage in vertical alignment conversations as well as grade-level content discussions, all focused on developing students’ mathematical understandings and preparing them for success in future math courses.  Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of sessions to develop teaching strategies for technology integration, including Desmos; addressing social and emotional learning in curriculum and instruction; and challenging our Gifted and Talented learners in ways that encourage sophistication in mathematical thinking.

Institute for Teaching Excellence: Middle School Science

Presentation Team: Brooke Schuster, Wendy Howe, Andy Thomason, Brenna Rhodes

Institute for Teaching Excellence: Middle School Science

The Institute for Excellence in Teaching was created to bring together the most intelligent minds, talented presenters, and eager learners to promote advanced academics in your classroom. We are thrilled you have chosen to join us and we look forward to serving your needs and inspiring greatness. Here’s what you can expect in our Middle School Science Summer Institute. You will have the opportunity to participate in multiple sessions each day with different presenters. Topics will range from content-focused, TEKS-based lessons, including an overview of the new TEKS, to learning new technology applications, to innovative pedagogical methods. You will also have the opportunity to learn and collaborate with other middle school science educators from across the state. We strive to cultivate the best, most diverse learning experience possible for our participants, and we can’t wait to partner with you in your pursuit of professional growth.

Institute for Teaching Excellence: Middle School Social Studies

Presentation Team: Barrett Doke, Maria Labus, Emily Hargrove

Institute for Teaching Excellence: Middle School Social Studies (Contemporary World Cultures, Texas History, and U.S. History)

The TCU Institute for Teaching Excellence for Middle School Social Studies is designed to give teachers the opportunity for meaningful professional development that will help elevate the curriculum and instruction in advanced and honors courses. For three days this summer, teachers will have the chance to work with expert presenters from Texas with experience implementing advanced curriculum and scaffolding that curriculum for students with various needs. The sessions available will focus on providing teachers with the skills and strategies that will help make their students more successful readers, writers, and thinkers. Teachers will not only walk away with new skill sets and strategies for the classroom, but also actual lessons ready to implement when the new year begins.

2024 Presenter Biographies:

Social Studies Presenters:

Barrett Doke

Barrett Doke was a history teacher for sixteen years before making the switch in 2022 to his current position as an Instructional Technologist for Houston ISD. During his time in the classroom, Doke taught on-level, Pre-Ap, and AP classes in American History. Doke has been an instructor for Rice University’s Pre-AP Preparedness Summer Workshop since 2018 and Texas Christian University’s Middle School Institute for Teaching Excellence since 2020. He also works as a part-time lecturer in Education at Rice University, teaching a class on Educational Technology.


Maria Labus

Maria Labus holds a B.A. in History and Secondary Education as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching, both from the University of Dallas. She works at Travis Middle school, in Irving, TX, as a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher. She works to develop engaging lessons that immerse students into simulations to give them real tangible experiences in history. Often in class, Maria is seen dressed up in historical costumes to give life to those studied in the past. Maria has experience in teaching Pre-AP courses, honors, and on-level classes. In addition to teaching, she has served as a department chair, PLC lead, new teacher mentor, curriculum writer, PD instructor, NJHS advisor, and member of the VILS tech team. This year, she has pioneered a new tradition at Travis to give 7th and 8th grade students the opportunity to travel to D.C. and Boston during their spring break. She is passionate about providing real opportunities for students to explore the history around them.


Math Presenters:

Stacy Hughes

Stacy Hughes

Stacy Hughes is a 7th-grade math teacher from Burleson, Tx, working at Kerr Middle School that serves grades 6-8. She just finished her 25th year in education, having taught 10 years as a GT teacher in Hernando County, FL, 3 years as a mild-to-moderate learning disabilities teacher at Morrison Academy in Taichung, Taiwan, and finally 12 years in Burleson ISD teaching elementary GT and 6th/7th-grade math. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Missouri State University, her master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington, and and additional master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from UTA. Stacy has been the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program District Director since 2014 and has partnered with TCU through TCU’s community outreach. SSEP is a district-wide experiment design program in which chosen teams send their experiment to the International Space Station. To date, seven experiments have completed their mission, and the 8th will be on the ISS this summer. Stacy believes students should know how their brains are wired to look for patterns in order to learn, and that homework and classwork are part of building those patterns. She uses the ideas of embracing struggle, knowing where to put your energy, and analyzing mistakes to teach students how to persist in patient problem-solving and how to persevere in math.

Christie Fish

Christie Fish is currently a math educator in Burleson, TX teaching 6th and 7th grade honors and accelerated math .  She came to Kerr Middle School in 2012 and her experience also includes 6th grade Honors and 6th grade Accelerated Math which covers 3 years of curriculum.  Before moving to Texas, she was a teacher in Colorado for 16 years teaching all grades of middle school math as well as Academic Enrichment, but spent the majority of her time in 8th grade math and Algebra I.  She earned her BS in Mathematics from Colorado State University – Pueblo and has an MA in Teaching from Grand Canyon University.  She has served as a math department head, mentor and committee member for curriculum development here in Texas as well as in Colorado. Christie has a passion for teaching and for kids and builds great relationships with her students.  She has the desire for kids to enjoy math and truly understand the concepts.  She not only believes in the power of “yet!” but that students need to be challenged beyond their comfort level to truly grow and learn.  She believes that students should be allowed to do problem solve in a variety of ways as long as they can explain and justify their methods and thinking.  Math should be creative, challenging and full of possibilities– not just memorizing facts and rules!

Jennifer Nicholson

Jennifer Nicholson

Jennifer Nicholson is a high school math teacher from Fort Worth, Texas, and coordinator for the Institute of Teaching Excellence for Middle School Math, 2020-2022.  She currently teaches AP Calculus AB & BC and AP Statistics at North Side High School, where she has taught for 15 years.  She serves as the chair of the math department at North Side and she works with the FWISD Math Department to write curriculum and to support and train teachers throughout the district.  Before teaching in Fort Worth, Jennifer taught in San Antonio ISD and Mansfield ISD.  In her 20 years of teaching, Jennifer has taught all levels of high school math, but has spent the majority of her time teaching AP Calculus. Jennifer holds a BS in Mathematics with Secondary Teaching Certification from Angelo State University.  In her time at North Side High School, Jennifer has been recognized as Campus Teacher of the Year, as the Freese & Nichols Chair for Teaching Excellence in Secondary Mathematics, as a FWISD Teacher of the Year finalist, and as a recipient of the Bayard H. Friedman Hero award for Mathematics, and she is a member of the 2020 Cohort of Leadership ISD. Jennifer is passionate about vertical alignment in mathematics to better prepare students for success in Advanced Placement and other college-level math courses and to equip students to be confident life-long problem solvers. 

Joel Bezaire

Joel Bezaire

Joel Bezaire teaches 7th Grade Pre-Algebra and Middle School Statistics at the University School of Nashville, where he has taught since 2002. He has been awarded a Desmos Fellowship, has been a two-time national semi-finalist for the Museum of Math’s Rosenthal Prize, and was the inaugural winner of USN’s Bovender Family Faculty Chair for “modeling the best in innovative teaching practices and thorough involvement in the life of the school”.
Joel is a founding member of The Educators’ Cooperative and served on the Advisory Committee since its inception until 2021, and now sits on the Board of Directors. He served as the director of EdCampNash from 2018-2021.


Science Presenters:

Brooke Schuster

Brooke Schuster has been an educator for 17 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Baylor University and a Master’s degree from UT Arlington in Curriculum and Instruction, Science Education. Brooke has taught high school science, served as an instructional coach, taught middle school science, and is currently a middle school Learning Liaison. She has learned so much from countless hours of professional development and through the many experiences that come with teaching a diverse group of students. Brooke thinks that teaching middle school is the best-kept secret and is really enjoying all of the work that makes supporting middle school a challenge and a joy.

Breena Rhodes

Brenna Rhodes has been an educator for 5 years with experience teaching 5th grade ELAR,  6th and 7th grade Science, and 7th and 8th grade cheerleading. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts from Texas Tech University in 2016, she completed an alternative teacher certification program that allowed her to fall in love with education. After becoming certified as a core 4-8 teacher, she decided to continue her own education by earning her Master of Arts in History from the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 2021.  In her current capacity as an educator, Brenna serves as her campus Science department lead and teaches 6th and 7th grade on level and Advanced/GT Science. She also serves as an adjunct instructor for Tarrant County College and shares her passion for history to her students. Being a lifelong integrative learner is her passion and being able to spread learning to others through hands-on experiences that can immediately be used in the classroom has deepened her passion for the art of education. However, one master’s degree wasn’t enough. She decided to begin pursuing a Master of Education in Educational Leadership with a principal certification last year with Texas Tech University in order to serve fellow educators in any way needed. She and her husband have been married for 10 years and she is a proud mother of4 little boys ages 8, 6, 5, and 1. She and her husband are expecting their 5th baby due in April.. Being a relational person, she enjoys making connections with her students in ways that allow them to learn at their best. Her ultimate goal is to spark an interest for students to build on throughout their educational careers.

Andy Thomason

Andy Thomason has been teaching middle school science for 5 years and comes from an Ecology background in coastal Alaska.. He has a Bachelors in Biology and Anthropology from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master’s in Science Curriculum and Instruction from UT Arlington. In Andy’s time in education, he has served as an Innovator in Instruction and Digital Specialist for developing technology-based activities. Andy’s expertise includes developing augmented reality (AR) for classroom experiences, as well as other science classroom resources  like Canvas, Peardeck, Stop-Motion Animation, and lab investigations/simulations. Andy is the founder of Bent Reality Solutions, a technology start-up that develops mixed-reality products and digital materials. He is an advocate for blending technology with instruction and attributes his students’ success to AR and other tech-based tools. He currently teaches 9th grade Biology to accelerated 8th grade students.. Andy enjoys teaching middle school science because it is a great age to get students excited for learning, and science is a great avenue to do that.

Wendy Howe

Wendy Howe has served in education for over 30 years in many different roles including public K-12 school, private school,  Montessori Pre-K and Kindergarten as well as community college and university.  Her primary teaching experience has been in public school secondary sciences.  She has a passion for students of all learning styles, and enjoys designing learning experiences for students that meet the needs of every child.  In addition to working with traditional students, Wendy has extensive experience with EL, GT, STEM and At-Risk students. Wendy has served as a teacher, instructional specialist, interventionist, instructional technologist and an instructional coach in addition to her current role as a Secondary Science and Mathematics Coordinator. Wendy has also had many opportunities to work outside of the school setting and travel extensively by presenting at conferences such as the Texas Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), DFW Metroplex Mini-CAST, and T-STEM Conferences. Wendy has also traveled as a consultant for Thinking Maps, Inc. delivering staff development in science, STEM and mathematics. Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Abilene Christian University in Biology, Texas Teacher Certifications in Biology, Chemistry, Composite Science, ESL and Special Education, a Master’s degree of Education for Science Teaching from the University of Texas at Arlington and is currently completing a Doctorate in Education with emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from Liberty University.

* Pre-AP is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the development and delivery of the Institute for Teaching Excellence professional development workshop.