By Marie Perry
Communications Director for the School District of Belleville 

CERN Program Offers New Mathematics Teacher the Catalyst for Change in How She Approaches STEM Teaching


September 22, 2022

Photos courtesy of Marie Perry

Belleville Math Teacher Erin Treder at CERN in Switzerland this summer. Photos courtesy of Marie PerryBelleville Math Teacher Erin Treder at CERN in Switzerland this summer.

In March of 2020, teacher Erin Treder was selected as 1 of 48 teachers from 34 different countries to participate in the International High School Teacher Program at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research and operates the largest particle physics lab in the world. It houses the equipment and infrastructure to offer high-energy physics research – something that is so intriguing to a teacher of mathematics looking for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) connections!

After two years of postponements due to COVID, the program resumed this summer and Treder was more than ready to go! By July she was seated with an international body of teachers passionate about science and science-related fields in education to see first-hand the work being done at CERN. Bringing these teachers together through such a special program builds networking and collaborative relationships; and in the end, allows these educators to further inspire their students when they bring all they have learned back to their STEM classrooms.

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Belleville Middle and High Schools are the lucky recipients of Treder's passion – with her as a new hire for the 2022-23 school year, her CERN experience is being shared this fall with Wildcats interested in the sciences. One of CERN's missions is to train the scientists of tomorrow, and this program looks to inspire and invigorate teachers from all over the world who want to bring that passion and motivation for science-related learning back to their students.

District Administrator Nate Perry acknowledges how lucky Belleville is to have Treder: "The School District of Belleville is very fortunate to have brought in Mrs. Treder – an educator with local ties, vast experience, and world-class connections!"

Treder's summer program began at CERN with the Higgs Celebration, where she got to hear from people who were there and the people who built and worked on the experiments. She also got to hear from physics superstars Peter Higgs and François Englert directly, as they spoke virtually at CERN during the scheduled program events! As a mathematics teacher, Treder shares, "There are so many connections between mathematics and physics, I am excited to share those connections with the students of Belleville. What better way to learn about math than to see the ways people use it?"

At CERN Treder discovered that out of the 48 initially selected, she was among 43 teachers representing 32 countries. "It is an honor to work so closely with field scientists and colleagues from all over the world. Particle physics is not something that is typically covered in depth in the high school curriculum. This program will give us the opportunity to offer our students a unique mathematics and physics experience, including up-to-date research and data they otherwise might not see or work with," she noted.

CERN is known for international collaborative efforts in the scientific community and plays host to numerous experimental opportunities. It also holds a large computing facility whereby data from such experiments can be analyzed and accessed remotely – providing a wonderful digital lab for educators wanting to make real-world connections for their students!

For Treder, it was great getting to talk with other teachers at CERN and having the chance to work together to figure out how to bring the things they were learning and seeing back to their classrooms at home in a digestible manner for young minds. In addition to her new-found teacher connections, she returned with important resources and will now be able to use real data to discuss the experiments that are occurring at CERN right now. Students will be able to build on the skills they already have, while gaining new skills using real data and computing through the context of the particle accelerators and information Treder has accessed. In this way, Treder will provide the bridge for her students to important innovative learning opportunities on a worldwide level.

Beyond the collaborative educator relationships she built during her time in Geneva, Treder got to be there for the tenth anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson as well as the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for run #3 after a three-year shut down for maintenance and upgrades to the systems and detectors. In short, as Treder begins her teaching career in Wildcat Country, she says this of her summer learning experience: "Classroom connections to the world around us are everywhere, and I am excited to bring a different one to our students!"

Offering students a new lens in the world of science-related education is what continues to inspire students who want to make the field of mathematics and physics their future, and Treder is nothing less than the needed catalyst for them to do so in STEM education. Belleville is excited to welcome this innovative teacher to its team!


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