Rowan faculty share expertise with area schools during pandemic

Rowan faculty share expertise with area schools during pandemic


When the spread of COVID-19 forced New Jersey schools to switch abruptly to remote instruction this spring, several Rowan University faculty jumped to help K-12 teachers adapt to the change, offering free resources online.

That support continues, and includes crash courses in virtual math instruction, weekly webinars and networking for school counselors, on-demand science videos and teaching tips for foreign language teachers.

“This is exactly why we’re here, to educate the community and offer ourselves as a public resource,” said Dr. Tony Lowman, Rowan University provost. “Our faculty are going above and beyond to help teachers do their jobs under extremely difficult circumstances.” 

After his own mechanobiology class moved online mid-semester, Dr. Peter Galie could immediately see the challenges for elementary and high school science teachers. 

How could kids understand complex scientific concepts without seeing them in action? And how could they remain interested in class while stuck at home? 

The Rowan University assistant professor and biomedical engineer decided to use his research lab to record on-demand science lessons targeting middle and high-schoolers: concise, five-minute videos demonstrating whatever hands-on concepts teachers request.   

“I imagine the teachers are overloaded trying to adapt to this new environment,” said Galie, a father of four children, ages 7 through 11 months. “I think the students are overloaded, as well.” 

Among the teachers who accepted Galie’s help was Matt Cieslik, his former high school track coach and mentor, who teaches a weekly STEM class at Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill. Normally, his students design, build and test things like playing card towers to see how well their theories work.  

“For me, one of the biggest challenges has been to take a class that’s essentially a hands-on learning class and change it to a class where it’s basically the exact opposite,” Cieslik said. “That’s where Pete has really come in handy. Not only does he have the expertise, but Rowan has the amazing facilities and materials, and he can show kids, instead of me talking about it.”  

During a month in lockdown, Galie shared videos on topics ranging from fluorescence microscopy and cell staining, to energy and the effects of air drag on a parachute.  

Galie is just one example of Rowan faculty who offered assistance to K-12 teachers and staff. Other examples include:

  • World language resources: Via videoconference, Language Education Professor Beth Wassell facilitates a weekly Professional Learning Community for 18 world language teachers in the Camden City School District. The meetings were initially focused on teaching for and about social justice and equity in the district. But, responding to educators’ needs, the group also has focused on practices and strategies for communicating language teaching in remote contexts and, also, on the unique needs of students and families in Camden during the school closures.
  • The Learning Resource Center-South is a grant-funded program that offers materials and resources that support the education of students with disabilities, educators and families. Its web site offers a wealth of information, including links and videos, to address content areas ranging from language arts, science, social studies and mathematics to the performing arts, health and motor skills, virtual field trips, and teaching students with disabilities, among other areas. 
  • Urban Education Professor Adam Alvarez is working with educators at Kingsway Regional High School to create a repository of organizations and resources for families within the five communities they serve. The group is creating a Google site to engage caregivers and has begun identifying churches, organizations, and student organizations, such as Schools United for Respect and Equality, as access points. 
  • Dr. Eric Milou, a mathematics professor and Director of Rowan’s STEM Center, provided free Webex training this spring for teachers from around the world. Teachers requested guidance on math apps and ways to engage kids of varying abilities. “It’s very gratifying, because there’s a huge need,” Milou said. “We have to meet that need.”