Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Sports fans might have recognized the name of a teacher featured in a Las Vegas Sun story about single-sex classes at West Prep’s middle school.
Math teacher Tommy Sieler was a standout place kicker at Chaparral High and at the University of Nebraska. In fact, Sieler is also the answer to popular trivia question about Nebraska’s 1994 championship year. He scored both the first and last points during that winning season.
After graduating with a degree in economics, Sieler was signed by the San Francisco 49ers, but was released after just a few games in 1995. He spent some time in sales but didn’t find it a fulfilling career. His parents worked for the School District (his late father was a teacher, his mother a counselor) and Sieler decided to give it a try. His early goal was to move into to the athletics department, but to his surprise, “it turned out I didn’t like coaching, but I loved teaching.”
He doesn’t talk much about his football days, although he has had some old pals from the NFL visit his classes as motivational speaker. One of the most popular is Brendan Stai, a Nebraska teammate who spent eight years in the NFL, retiring from the New England Patriots in 2003.
At 6-foot-4 and about 300 pounds, “Brendan looks the part,” Sieler said. “I look like a math teacher.”
• • •
At a national conference in Atlanta in early October to discuss single-sex classrooms, nine of the 33 presenters came from Nevada, including seven from Clark County, more than any other individual school district.
Clark County is so steeped in the issue that next year’s conference will likely be held in Las Vegas.
Of the 545 public schools nationwide that offer some version of single-sex education, eight are in Clark County.
Most of the schools are basing their programs on a theory by Dr. Leonard Sax that brain development of boys and girls is so different, they require separate learning environments. Critics of Sax say he bases his arguments on research that is outdated or was never intended to support single-sex education.
Among the presenters at this year’s conference were Ariel Villalobos, principal of Cortez Elementary, who talked about the process his staff went through to convert the campus to single-sex classes in all grade levels in 2008. Villalobos wants to develop a handbook to help campuses navigate the seemingly endless red tape of local, state and federal regulations on single-sex education in public schools.
Also presenting at the conference was Maribel McAdory, principal of Diaz Elementary, whose teachers keep daily journals to better track how particular instructional techniques work with each single-sex class.
• • •
Since April, nearly $205 million in federal stimulus money has poured into Nevada’s public colleges and universities, supporting about 2,100 jobs, according to a report by Chancellor Dan Klaich.
The bulk of the money — $184 million — was used to backfill shortfalls in the state’s basic support caused by declines in revenue. The Nevada System of Higher Education also received $14.4 million for research and $5.5 million for student financial aid.
Additionally, university researchers are in the thick of competition for new grants that are awarded on a continual basis.
“We believe that our scientists will be highly competitive for these research dollars,” Klaich said in his report. “The nature of the peer review process is that the best science rises to the top, and we believe that over the next year we will see a considerable influx in stimulus-related research funding to the (Nevada system) and that the impact of those funds, both in terms of jobs and new discoveries, will be significant.”