CCRE contracts to train Tennessee teachers in cybersecurity education

Tania Williams.

The CCRE is focusing on teacher professional development, STEM enrichment modules, and afterschool and weekend activities, says Tania Williams, a CCRE research engineer.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The Center for Cybersecurity Research and Education (CCRE) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is contracted with the Niswonger Foundation in Tennessee to train teachers in cybersecurity education as part of an $8.8 million grant with funding from the U.S. Department of Education and matching funds.

Called Rural Tennessee STEM LD to denote learning by design, the five-year grant will focus on educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and serve 126 mostly rural schools in 21 school districts in grades 6-12 in northeast Tennessee.

UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, is designing cybersecurity experiential opportunities and will train educators on how to implement these into their classrooms, says Tania Williams, a CCRE research engineer.

“We are focusing on teacher professional development, STEM enrichment modules, and afterschool and weekend activities,” Williams says. “Over this five-year effort, we will conduct a three-day annual professional development, provide monthly drag and drop cybersecurity lessons for teachers to integrate into their classrooms during the school year and host eight yearly virtual after school and weekend activities.”

Besides Williams, CCRE Deputy Director and Principal Research Engineer Sharon Johnson and Jesse Hairston, a CCRE research engineer, are helping with the project.

The project is another step in the evolution of CCRE’s efforts from cyber camps into school curriculum and teacher training.

“Just a few years ago we were focusing on camps. Now, we are honored to be a part of several curriculum development efforts that will used by schools and students across the nation,” says Williams.

“We are proud that we are creating a curriculum that is being built by cybersecurity experts and master educators. It is being crafted by teachers for teachers. This means that it is age appropriate, rigorous, engaging and accessible – things that students need and deserve.”

The U.S. Department of Education selected 28 grant recipients based on recommendations from independent peer review panelist. The successful applications represented 17 states and the District of Columbia. The Niswonger Foundation was the only grant recipient in the State of Tennessee.

The major components of the grant include strengthening the teaching and learning classroom experiences with engaging materials for students and professional development of teachers, experiential out-of-school time opportunities to explore STEM content, and expanding participation in rigorous STEM and dual enrollment courses. This work will include conducting formative and summative evaluations of the project in order to continuously improve.