PIMMS Assistant Director Plans the Programs

Patti Miller, assistant director of programs, grants and marketing for the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS).
Posted 06/04/07
Q: Patti, when did you start working at Wesleyan and what were you hired in as?

A: I started in Fall 2000 and I was hired on a part-time/temporary basis to assist a wonderful woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness to help her manage PIMMS workshop registrations and promotion.

Q: You are the assistant director of programs, grants and marketing for the PIMMS. What is the overall purpose of the program?

A: PIMMS mission is to provide high-quality professional development for mathematics and science educators – mostly at the Pre-K to grade 12 level. We accomplish this by offering workshops in the summer and throughout the academic year to improve teachers’ command of the subject matter, use of technology, and their pedagogical and leadership skills as well as foster colleagueship among educators. The PIMMS Fellowship program was initiated in 1983 for very dedicated educators by providing intensive training of over 200 hours and lasting 18 or more months. Since then, more than 600 PIMMS Fellows have been named. PIMMS also provides training for individual school districts with on-site and in-service workshops for staff as well as consulting services to help educational leaders evaluate their programs, curriculum and student progress.

Q: What are some of the PIMMS programs?

A: We are currently wrapping up a 20-month Connecticut State Department of Education grant project to train 43 math leaders in middle and high schools in 14 districts in the state. We are also one year into a 3-year CSDE grant for 25 middle school science teacher-leaders. This summer, we will continue our work with the eesmarts program sponsored by United Illuminating and Connecticut Light and Power, funded by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. This project provides training for K-8 teachers to enhance their knowledge of energy and energy conservation to improve delivery of instruction in their science classrooms and to promote an energy-efficiency ethic in our communities. PIMMS Chair, Bob Rosenbaum, will also return to the classroom this summer with two mini-mathematics courses for a small group of educators finishing their PIMMS Fellows training.

Q: What is your role as a grants writer and marketing person?

A: I am responsible for taking ideas about grant projects and putting them into a final form that, hopefully, results in funding for the project. These ideas may come from within the PIMMS House or from Wesleyan professors who wish to work with K-12 schools in their projects. Once we receive funding for a project, I oversee the operation of the project to make sure all staff and participants are informed about events and activities and I produce promotional materials needed for the project as well as gather data and evaluation materials for preparing final reports. I also maintain the PIMMS Web site, which houses information about all our current programs and, as needed, produce fliers and brochures for workshops and events hosted by PIMMS.

Q: Who founded PIMMS?

A: In 1979, Robert Rosenbaum, University Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences, Emeritus, convened a group of citizens who were concerned about the quality of mathematics education in the state of Connecticut. These meetings included mathematics teachers and faculty from the public school, community college, and university levels, as well as school administrators and representatives of business and industry. Their collaboration resulted in the formation of the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics. PIMMS began in 1983 when the organization’s scope was broadened to include science.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in the office?

A: Our office is quite small and although we all work somewhat independently, we overlap considerably on our various projects. Included are Mike Zebarth, director; Bob Borello, associate director for Science; Sandie Coelho, associate director for mathematics; and Lorraine Karatkewicz, who holds everything together as our office manager. Bob Rosenbaum, chair and founder of PIMMS, is our stalwart consultant and guide in all matters pertaining to education, mathematics, science, and general good sense. My work generally supports everyone in the office.

Q: What do you do throughout your day and when does it become the busiest?

A: My day involves a lot of work at the computer – writing, communicating with project participants, Web site work, producing brochures and announcements, and processing workshop registrations or Continuing Education Units. Crunch time occurs when grant proposals or final reports are due or if we have a large number of workshops scheduled in a short time-span.

Q: What is the Early Childhood Mathematics and Science Leadership Institute?

A: We recently managed two grant projects intended to expose early childhood educators to new research and techniques for fostering mathematics and science thinking in the young child. This growing field is emerging as an important means for helping young children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop skills and some “big ideas” about science and mathematics to get them ready for K-12 education. We hope to be able to continue work in this area.

Q: What is your background in?

A: I have an undergraduate degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in exercise science, not your typical combination. I have worked as an artist, a graphic artist, and as an exercise physiologist managing grant projects and training and certification programs.

Q: What are some the challenges of your job?

A: The most interesting “challenge” for me at PIMMS occurs during the exploratory stages when a new grant proposal is in the works. I enjoy the background research, especially, in gathering evidence in support of the intended goals and activities of the project and find that I learn an enormous amount about the topic in the process. Structuring a project so that it fits within a budget, meets the grantors objectives, meets the grantees goals and interests, and makes sense as a total package to the grant readers and funding agency is always a challenge, especially when many players are involved in brainstorming the possibilities.

Q: Where is your office located on campus, and what is the story behind this building?

A: PIMMS is located at 178 Cross Street, across from the softball fields and practice soccer and lacrosse fields. PIMMS House was built in downtown Middletown circa 1750 and moved to its present location in the early 1800s.

Q: Do you have children? What are some activities you enjoy doing together?

A: My husband, Jeff Miller, and I have three daughters 18, 20, and 22. Jeff is the associate director of facilities management at Physical Plant. All of us have been involved in running and track and field at some time and this summer I will continue to coach as a volunteer with the Connecticut Track Club which I founded in 2001 – a youth program for ages 9 and older and currently expanding to include adult distance runners.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Exercise is a “hobby” I pursue as a necessary counterpoint to many hours in front of a computer. I also enjoy photography and stained glass.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say about your role at Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan University is a fabulous institution in many ways, most notably in the educational experiences it provides but also in its relationship with and support of its employees. I consider working at Wesleyan a privilege.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor