Superintendent's Memo #199-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

July 22, 2011

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: VISTA Professional Development Opportunity for Provisionally-Licensed Middle and High School Teachers

The Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) is a statewide initiative designed to improve science teaching and student learning throughout Virginia, especially in high-need schools.  VISTA's partners consist of six universities, school divisions, and the Virginia Department of Education.

VISTA offers a unique opportunity for first-year provisionally-licensed middle and high school science teachers.  In the middle and high school program, provisionally-licensed teachers receive, for two years, four forms of support: a basic science methods course (three graduate credits), an advanced science methods course (three graduate credits), a coach, and access to a Web site with resources to assist in meeting the needs of diverse learners and for using technology in teaching.  The courses are offered at George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the College of William and Mary.

The courses are offered in a two-part sequence of science methods courses for provisionally-licensed science teachers.  The basic course is designed to build fundamental knowledge of science teaching and learning including standards-based curriculum design and research-based teaching strategies.  The course focuses on developing inquiry-based lessons for students to investigate science and assessing student understanding of science and the nature of science.  The teachers will plan lessons for students to learn science, implement lessons in a high school classroom, observe students learning, and evaluate their teaching and student outcomes.  The advanced course provides advanced study of teaching and curriculum development based on research and current issues and emphasizes integrating science and technology, and adapting instruction to the needs of diverse learners.

Teachers also attend the Virginia Association of Science Teacher’s Professional Development Institute each of the two years and all expenses (travel, lodging, per diem, registration) are paid by VISTA.

Teacher candidates for the program must be provisionally-licensed teachers who have been recently hired to teach science in middle or high school and must complete an application at

If you have questions concerning VISTA’s professional development opportunity for provisionally licensed middle and high school teachers, please contact Karla Ver Bryck Block, director of VISTA, at (703) 993-5893 or visit the VISTA Web site at