A series of five successful Modeling Workshops in a school district

Updated in March 2015 by Jane Jackson




Jim Stankevitz is a physics teacher at Wheaton-Warrenville South HS, just west of Chicago. In 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008, Jim organized and led five two-week Modeling Workshops in his public school. JStankev@cusd200.org. Tom Todd, an earth science teacher at the school who completed eight weeks of Modeling Workshops in physics, co-led each workshop.


Ultimate goal: the entire science department uses Modeling Instruction.

Chief strengths: two knowledgeable science teacher-leaders, supportive administration, low cost ($100) to out-of-district teacher participants, incentives to science teachers in the school.

Student outcomes: 18 additional sections of science courses, compared to sister school!



E-mail correspondence with Jim Stankevitz.  Compiled by Jane Jackson

Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003

From: Jim Stankevitz


Good news!  Tom Todd and I have just received the OK to do a 2-week, district modeling workshop for the staff at the 2 high schools in our community-unit district from July 28-August 8.  In addition, we will accept others from surrounding communities who are interested.  Tom, Linda Whitlock and I presented a mini workshop at our county-wide inservice a few weeks ago and have had several applicants from other county schools. 


Our district has set aside $20,000 to run the workshop.  For our in-district participants, it's a great deal:  $1200 stipend and optional (discounted) graduate credit from Aurora University.  By next school year's start, all of our district freshmen physics/chemistry staff and almost all of our physics staff will be trained in modeling.


Date: Mon, 10 May 2004

Subject: local workshop

Hi Jane,

     Tom Todd and I will be running a district-only 2-week workshop in June here at our school for those who have already taken the first year's Modeling Workshop.  Our 9 in-district participants will be working on developing new modeling-based units or expanding on existing units in their discipline area.  Our participants are a good mix of physics, chemistry, biology, and earth/space science teachers.  Participants can choose from a paid stipend or re-certification credits.  

     We received about 60% of our funds ($9,000) through a community-based funding organization called "The New 200 Foundation", which funds special projects beyond the scope of the district's conventional budget.  They usually fund small (<$500) grants, but made an exception for our proposal.  Several of the foundation members interviewed some of our physics students and were very impressed with their responses to their questions about the efficacy of modeling.  The district has chipped in the remainder of our monetary needs.


Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004

Subject: Re: Modeling Workshop: Return this survey, for NSF report

Hi Jane,

 I've embedded my responses to the survey.

     # days of your workshop: 10

     # high school teachers: 11

     # middle school/jr high teachers: 0

 Our workshop had teachers of physics, chemistry, biology, physical science, astronomy and geology. All participants had already completed the first year of the workshop (last summer) in physics.  This was the second year for all our participants, so we had them focus on developing and presenting one unit of instruction in their respective discipline.


Date: Fri, 06 May 2005

From: Jim Stankevitz

... By the way, after our district workshop this summer, all of our school's physics teachers will have been trained in modeling, and 15 out of the entire 18 science staff will have had a modeling workshop!  (Only 3 biology teachers will not have been trained.)  It has taken 9 years, but one by one, we've become a modeling staff!  Now, we're focusing on the other high school in our district, and we've got four of them signed up for this summer's workshop too.


Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2005

From: Jim Stankevitz

Hi Jane,

    Our in-district Modeling workshop is drawing to a close, and I would like to have our new (1st-year) participants added to the Modeling listserve.  Here are their email addresses: ...

    We ended up with 12 1st-year modelers and 8 3rd-year modelers.  8 of the 12 first-year modelers are from our district with 5 from my school and 3 from our "sister" school.  The 4 others are from 2 neighboring districts.  The 3rd year modelers (all from our district) have been working on developing modeling units in chemistry, biology, astronomy and geology.  They will be using our 1st year modelers as "students" as they try out their new units with them tomorrow, and seek feedback from them on how things go.  The 1st year group has been working long, hard days and we are planning 4 after school/evening and 3 Saturday follow-up meetings in September and October for all of our participants.

    Counting Tom Todd and myself, we now have 17 modeling-trained science teachers between our two district high schools, with ALL of the physical science teachers and 3 biology teachers at our school trained in modeling.  Our district has been very cooperative and is offering our in-district participants either a stipend or CEU's for salary advancement credit for the third year in a row.  It certainly has been gratifying to see our department grow in the number of modelers since I first began in 1995.


Date:    Fri, 21 Mar 2008

Subject: modeling workshop in suburb of Chicago, IL (Jim Stankevitz/Tom Todd)

[A forwarded message received on March 19 from Jim Stankevitz. Modeling instruction is very successful; they now have 18 more sections of science than their sister high school, which teaches mostly traditionally but has the same number of students.   -- jane]

Hi Jane,

Everything has been OK'd at our end, so we're ready to "officially" announce the workshops.  Here's the link to our modeling workshop info and registration forms: …

Here's the three administrators who have been most supportive of our efforts at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, and in our district (Community Unit School District 200):

    Superintendent:  Dr. Richard Drury

    Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services: Dr. Margo Sorrick 

    Director of Secondary Education: Dr. Chuck Baker

Without their support, both monetarily and philosophically, we would never have had the success we are enjoying.  I think they know of the importance of implementing modeling throughout our science curriculum, but I don't know that they appreciate the uniqueness of our district's "model" modeling program.


Their announcement:


Community Unit School District 200

Modeling Method of Instruction for Science - 2008



 Section 1:  Secondary science teachers new to the Modeling Methodology

 Section 2:  Secondary science teachers who have completed a Modeling workshop

Each section will be limited to 24 participants.


Workshop Dates: Monday, August 4 – Friday, August 15.  This workshop will consist of 60 hours of contact time.

Time: 7:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Course Objectives:

The main purpose of the Science Modeling Workshops is to empower teachers with a robust teaching methodology.  This includes the cultivation of teacher abilities to critically analyze any given science curriculum materials and organize valuable parts into effective instructional units

which make the underlying models explicit - tasks which require a strong pedagogical framework.

Section 1  - The main objective of this section of the workshop is to train teachers in the Modeling Methodology with the emphasis on using modeling as an approach to instruction in physics.  Laboratory investigations, problem solving and group presentations will be emphasized.

Section 2 - The main objective of this workshop is to give teachers already trained in the Modeling Methodology an opportunity to study additional modeling units of instruction or develop new or refined units of instruction for their classes using this methodology.

Location: Wheaton Warrenville South High School, Room C209

Cost: $100.00 to cover cost of materials

Credit: Optional graduate credit (6 hours) will be available through Illinois State University. The approximate cost will be $1500.  Those choosing the graduate credit option will need to complete additional work outside of the workshop hours.  Details will be provided on August 4th. State CPDU's will be available for this workshop.

Instructors: Jim Stankevitz and Tom Todd


HOUSING (added by Jane): Jim says that many motels are nearby. The airport is nearby. They can accommodate teachers from all over the nation.


Their second modeling workshop will be like the one at Ohio State University, where teachers work in small groups to take existing model-based materials in physics or chemistry and adapt them to their own classes -- unlike at ASU where the entire workshop is structured on models of light, or microscopic models of electricity, or model-adapted CASTLE, etc., depending on the workshop.



Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2008

From: James Stankevitz

Registration for our summer workshops has been going extremely well.  We're almost at the 24 maximum for our first year workshop, and we'll be ordering materials soon.


On 6/9/08, Jim Stankevitz posted to the American Modeling Teachers Assn website (AMTA):

...  I got started in modeling at Gregg Swackhamer's UIC workshops in '95-96. I followed that up with a two-year stint doing workshops at the University of Akron with Lou Turner. Since then, I've run modeling workshops at Illinois State and 3 years of workshops at Dominican University

outside of Chicago. In addition, my colleague Tom Todd and I have run 3 summers of workshops in (and funded by) our district. Of the 18 science staff in our school, we will have trained 15 of them in modeling. Most are not physics teachers, but have taken the mechanics workshop and then followed that up with adapting/developing modeling-based units in chemistry, biology, earth science and astronomy. This summer, we have 45 Chicago-area teachers signed up for two modeling workshops (beginners and 2nd-years) that we will run at our school in August.

     I'm also beginning to work with the Education Department at UIC to establish a modeling-based, physics teaching methods, graduate-level course. The first offering of this course begins next week, with 9 students enrolled so far. Hopefully, this course will eventually serve more teachers from the Chicago Public Schools.


Subject: Re: your two-week school district modeling workshops this summer

Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2008


     We received substantial funding from our district to run two simultaneous, two-week workshops.  Tom Todd and I worked with both groups, but the bulk of my time was spent with the first year modelers while Tom worked more with the experienced ones.

     In-district participants attended free of charge (there were 9) and were offered either continuing education units of credit for advancement on our district pay scale or graduate credit through Illinois State University. Out-of-district participants were charged a $100 materials fee (there were 36), and had the option of choosing to register for 6 hours of graduate credit through Carl Wenning and Illinois State University.  A total of 17 have chosen the grad credit option.

     The part one workshop was for those new to modeling and followed the first semester mechanics curriculum, and the other workshop was for experienced modelers.  Both sections met for 10 days, for a total of 60 hours in my classroom at Wheaton Warrenville South HS.  Three 5-hour follow-up sessions have been scheduled on Saturdays this fall.

     28 teachers attended the first year workshop and 17 the second.  The second workshop for experienced modelers broke into 3 sub-sections with one group working on implementing/refining/adapting chemistry modeling materials, one group on second semester physics modeling, and a third group on astronomy/geology materials.

     Many participants were from local high schools that had physics teachers previously trained in the modeling workshops Tom Todd and I conducted at Dominican University from 2005-07.




Update in March 2013.

Jim Stankevitz, Phil Culcasi, and Sharon Olson (with Tom Corbiere) lead Modeling Workshops in physics, chemistry, and biology at Wheaton-Warrenville South High School for two weeks in June 2013. Jim, Phil, and Sharon have all taught at this school for many years and have all taken 6 weeks or more of Modeling Workshops.


All three workshops are open to teachers nationwide, and the cost is $250.  As preparation, in February Jim and Phil led one-day county-wide inservices for teachers of physics and chemistry, respectively.


By mid-March the mechanics and 1st semester chemistry workshops were full with 28 teachers each!  They partnered with FermiLab, which posted the registration form on their website. They arranged for optional graduate credit at Aurora University (with which FermiLab also partners) for $100 per credit. (Each credit requires a minimum of 15 contact hours, and teachers can earn 4 credits for the two weeks.) Jim applied to The Boeing Company for $6000 to pay for instructional supplies.


The motivation for their including a biology Modeling Workshop is expressed in this e-mail from Jim Stankevitz to Jane Jackson on Jan. 25, 2013. (Jim gave permission to post it.)


     For the record, our freshmen phys/chem class which WAS extraordinarily successful for our school, was cancelled by our district administrators a little over 3 years ago, and replaced with a bio-chem-physics sequence, turning the clock back 100 years.  I won't go into all the reasons here, but it was not an enlightened decision.  The full impact of this decision will be seen when our course selection process for next school year takes place, but we do not anticipate continuing the high enrollment in our upper-division courses that we previously enjoyed.  

     The greatest impact we have seen so far, is with the freshmen biology classes.  Our bio teachers had been used to getting students coming from the old phys/chem course who were able to design an experiment, execute it, analyze data, draw conclusions, engage in scientific discourse with their peers, defend their positions, whiteboarding, etc.  Now, they are clueless, and our bio teachers have struggled with their students’ lack of experience in these basic modeling skills.

     We are preparing to conduct bio, chem, and physics workshops this summer, with an eye for developing the bio modeling for most of our school's bio staff, so they can begin the training of our students in the modeling ways as freshmen.



Read this Chicago Tribune article (Jan. 2015) about Jim Stankevitz and his school’s Midwest Modeling Methodology of Science Teaching Institute. Four 2-week Modeling Workshops are held each June, in his science department, for teachers worldwide. Workshops are in physics, chemistry, and biology.


January's WWEA Educator Spotlight.



[I quote excerpts.]

The Wheaton Warrenville Education Association (WWEA) would like to introduce Mr. James Stankevitz, a 20 year Science educator at Wheaton Warrenville South High School in District 200 with 38 years of teaching experience. Over the years, Mr. Stankevitz has earned numerous achievement awards.


Mr. Stankevitz believes one of his greatest accomplishments as an educator took place in 1995 when he altered his teaching technique to include modeling methodology. The results he witnessed in his students' learning was "truly astounding." He then began training many of his WWEA colleagues in this methodology, and now, with the assistance of District 200 and the Science Department Chair, Mr. Phil Culcasi, the WWS Science Department established the Midwest Modeling Methodology of Science Teaching Institute. This Institute has been active for two years and trained over 200 high school and college educators from all over the country. Wheaton Warrenville South is now viewed as a national leader in science education training and reform. Mr. Stankevitz commented on this major accomplishment by stating, "All told, since I implemented the modeling methodology training, our efforts have resulted in the training of over 500 other science educators, who in turn have positively impacted the learning of nearly one hundred thousand high school science students nationwide."


Mr. Stankevitz believes that being an educator doesn't mean giving answers to students, but asking questions and producing independent learners through inquisitive, skeptical challenges in and outside of the classroom. Education is a passion for Mr. Stankevitz ...



Here are actions that you, the science teacher and modeler, can take to do something similar.

1) Have one other science teacher in your department take two three-week Modeling Workshops somewhere in the nation; then the two of you take Jim and Tom’s actions.

2) A long shot: ask your school district science/math coordinator to connect you with your State Department of Education grants department. Find out about the yearly grant competition for the state "Math/Science Partnerships (MSP)" program. Adapt Patty Blanton and Matt Greenwolfe’s MSP proposal for Modeling Workshops in North Carolina. It is at


3) Another long shot: Ask a local post-secondary faculty member to write an “Improving Teacher Quality” (ITQ) proposal with you. Your state's URL is at


Note: in spring 2015, the ESEA re-authorization is in process. The ITQ program is likely to end, it appears.  For resources on how to try to educate your U.S. Congressmen to fund STEM teacher professional development, see