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SyfrScholars are those who commit to a new art of teaching based on brain science in the Centers of Excellence. They begin as apprentices who read the Core books on brain science and who engage in bringing the research into their classroom practice. The journeyman scholar shows evidence of the research and how it has been adapted for use in the classroom. The master scholar has learned a new practice, adapted it, acted on it, and shown evidence to others who learn from them and repeat the cycle of Learn–Adapt–Act.

Graphic with results from a Syfr InstituteWe are pleased that teachers in other districts have embraced this work, given the the fact that research by Saks and Belcourt (2006), USA Today (1996), Detterman and Sternberg (1993), and Baldwin and Ford (1988) found that only between 10 to 40 percent of training actually transfers to workers’ jobs. They estimate that 60 to 90 cents of every training dollar is wasted because most employees don’t apply what they’ve been taught when they return to their jobs after training. Syfr Institutes are showing a different result.

I’ve taught the same course for eight years and I have never felt so secure in my “art” as I do now that I have applied what I learned in the Syfr sessions to my lessons.—Jennifer Lankes, Fox Tech High School

Syfr has changed not only how I teach, but also how I learn. Before Syfr, most of my reading was in the fields of education and history. Through our training, I have read works by neuroscientists, psychologists, art historians, journalists and economists. All of these works have given me the language to articulate concepts that I have intuitively sensed but not been able to express. With this new language I am able to refine ideas that were vague and shifting. This new language has also helped me communicate more effectively with my colleagues, so that collectively we can begin to address the barriers to learning in our school. Thank you, Dick and Christine, for helping me discover my own creativity and giving me the tools to inspire my students to do the same.—Michelle LaFontain, Edison High School

I feel that I have a nice new lens to look through at my teaching strategies. I feel that at last I am discovering the art of teaching.—Kathryn King, AP Biology Teacher

I am a skeptic, an academic who analyzes each text she reads in an attempt to discover its inherent flaws. I am not one who is persuaded easily. In order for a training series to be successful, it must present a compelling argument and follow that argument with impressive and solid evidence. Most trainings that I have experienced have only disappointed. The vast majority regurgitate the same information disguised as something new and revolutionary. Under careful examination, the new is revealed to be nothing but the old. It is with this doubter’s mindset that I first approached Syfr. Although I was intrigued by the images of art displayed and the atmosphere of excitement buzzing around the room, I prepared myself to be underwhelmed. Instead, I was revolutionized as a teacher. For the first time in my career, I learned to appreciate the true meaning of collaboration—a most bandied about term that, for me, had really ceased to denote anything of substance. Through our discussions, ranging from the academic to the creative to the amusing, I melded with my cohort and they became a part of me. Like the great salons or artistic cafes of the nineteenth century, Syfr becomes a space where the possibility for innovation is endless. The environment fostered by Syfr allows for the creation of a truly alchemical atmosphere where individual minds merge into a larger, focused entity. Through the partnerships I have formed at Syfr, I have worked closely with teachers from other campuses in my district to refine the structure of my content. Syfr has endowed me with a new appreciation of practice, repetition, abstraction and re-imagination. Out of context these words mean nothing, but within the scope of Syfr they mean everything. I have seen not only my skills as an instructor improve, but I have seen tangible, measurable results in my students. When I examine my students’ writing and see the vast improvement they have shown or when I moderate a discussion on Derby’s An Experiment on a Bird in a Vacuum Pump and its relationship to themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a discussion that I never would have thought possible before in my inner-city classroom, I need no further proof that Syfr is transformative.—Laura Davenport, PhD, Fox Tech High School, SAISD

That’s what makes the Syfr Institutes so different. They know that there is no pill, no cure for all, but instead they provide the knowledge and wisdom to enhance the teachers’ learning. Syfr understands that the teacher is the program and the only way to improve student achievement is to improve the quality of the teacher. This training is not a one-day training, nor would I even call it training. It is professional growth that every educator needs to experience. If you want to walk away with a binder of someone else’s lessons, this is not for you. However, if you want to master the art of teaching by continually improving your lessons by making them more engaging and rigorous, this is what you want to attend.

Syfr brings concepts from art to neuroscience and teaches you to explore a new approach to teaching. I can say that I have tried some practices in my classroom I might never have thought of without their help. Being a mathematics educator, I was never asked to be creative, but that is something that is hard to escape from when attending Syfr. For example, the idea of reframing or even clarifying the importance of repetition are topics that I utilize now. Most importantly you have the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues, as well as with Richard and Christine, who will treat you with respect and with pure professionalism.—Martin Alvarez, Mathematics Teacher

TAKS Reading Results Chart