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Access ExcellenceLinks
Teachers, Scientists, Students
By Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Outreach
University of Wisconsin Biotechnology Center and UW-Extension
Any teacher or researcher anywhere in the US can participate on-line in Access Excellence, multi- million dollar biology outreach initiative sponsored by Genentech.
Teachers who are interested in participating in the program can immediately join in the discussions, sharing and collaborations. You can find contact information for Access Excellence projects and staff by accessing the AE organization chart.
Genentech Inc. (S. San Francisco, CA) launched AE in 1993 with a core of 105 Access Excellence Fellows -- biology teachers selected by the National Science Teachers Association from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Impacts on Teachers
"Day-to-day contact with a hundred other teachers is great," says AE Fellow Joe Zaiman of Edgewood High School in Madison, WI. "I'm the only biology teacher at Edgewood, and having other teachers to bounce ideas off is a huge benefit."
AE Fellows attended a five-day summits, near Genentech's campus in South San Francisco. The activities include computer training, orientation sessions describing the philosophy and goals of AE, several outside speakers, two symposia on the evolution of disease and on immunology, and two social events.
Sue Johnson, an AE Fellow from Monona Grove High School in Wisconsin, described the experience as incredible, as well as hard work: three of the five nights when she attended were spent in planning sessions and symposia.
Another AE Fellow, Betsy Barnard, echoes that insight. Last year, some of the best questions from her students might go unanswered. "Now," she says, "I'll post the question to someone at Genentech and to the teachers, and we'll get an answer back."
In 1999, Genentech donated the Access Excellence Website to the National Health Museum, a non-profit organization founded by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop as a national center for health education. Access Excellence will form the core of the educational component of the National Health Museum Website that is currently under development. Genentech will continue to support the program both financially and intellectually.
The Early Years
Access Excellence grew out of ongoing communication and volunteer activities between Genentech employees and local area science teachers. When science teachers were asked what Genentech could do to make a positive impact on science education, the teachers said they needed a way to "break the isolation" from other teachers and to be able to share teaching ideas, strategies and activities with their colleagues. They said it was this rare interaction that allowed them to effectively interest and inspire their students.
Guided in the first phase by a panel of education and scientific advisors, Access Excellence enhanced biology teaching by providing a computer network forum on which teachers can share their innovative teaching ideas and activities, accessing information, expert assistance, and the advice and experience of other teachers to create new ideas and best practices. Each year for the first three years of the program, the National Science Teachers Association chose one hundred Fellows to assist with the design and development of the program and the online forum, and to conduct outreach to other teachers. In 1997, the Fellows program was discontinued so that resources could be focused on the electronic forum on the World Wide Web. The core group of 310 Fellows continue as active participants and mentors, and new individuals and teaching communities are invited to participate via the Web.
Future Plans
In transferring Access Excellence to the National Health Museum, Genentech has made a commitment to expand the scope and reach of the program to even broader teaching communities. Visitors to the National Health Museum - in the nation's capital or on the World Wide Web - will explore the medical advances of tomorrow and find the information they need to make healthier decisions today. By creatively applying new technology, advanced educational techniques, and hands-on experiences to the dynamic field of personal and public health, the National Health Museum will educate, motivate and inspire people of all ages to take greater responsibility for their own health. In addition to a state-of-the-art exhibit program, the museum facility will have educational facilities for student groups and a conference center geared to the special requirements of health and science professionals. Beyond the physical structure, the National Health Museum will extend its presence via the Web, where students, teachers, parents and grandparents can access the information they need.
Genentech's efforts to enhance science education through the Access Excellence program have been extremely successful, resulting in recognition by national educational organizations and the media as a model program of private sector support. With the ongoing support of Genentech, as well as other interested donors, Access Excellence will continue to evolve and grow, while maintaining its well-earned reputation as a truly important contribution to high school science education.

Page updated: June 30, 2005
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Copyright © 2005 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.