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Teachers in Industry program gives educators hands-on experience in tech


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  • Katie Snyder/Havas

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The University of Arizona College of Education’s Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies is now accepting applications for the summer of 2016 for its Teachers in Industry program.

Fifty teachers are expected to be accepted to participate.

Teachers in Industry program gives educators hands-on experience in tech TeachersInIndustryTeachers in Industry is an innovative, award-winning professional development and degree program for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers; it was created as a result of a business education partnership inspired by Tucson Values Teachers, a nonprofit dedicated to raising the status of the teaching profession.

Participants complete coursework at the University of Arizona and spend their summers working for pay at Arizona businesses in STEM fields, giving them a substantial income boost for the years they are in the program, as well as rich hands-on job experience. Teachers can choose to work for professional development credit or to earn a master of arts degree in science or math education.

Teachers in Industry is the only program of its kind in the United States and was recently honored by Change the Equation.

“Teachers in Industry has enabled dozens of Arizona teachers to practice their science and mathematics disciplines in business settings around Arizona,” College of Education Dean Ronald W. Marx said. “They bring what they learn from these businesses back to their classrooms, helping their students learn how abstract concepts in the school curriculum actually operate in real-life settings.”

The Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Foundation (through 100Kin10) is now in its third year of funding Teachers in Industry and has contributed $670,000 total. The Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation is in its first year of funding and has contributed $250,000. This funding helps pay for tuition remission and program costs.

Teachers earn $8,000 on average each summer through the program. Master’s program teachers pay 35 percent of the tuition costs ($2,600 per year) from that pay. Professional development teachers pay all of their tuition costs ($1,340 per year) from that pay. Leading employers in the region hire and pay the teachers directly and then provide training and supervision during the summer.

The program was created through a partnership between the university, Tucson Values Teachers, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, and Tucson-area STEM businesses and industries, most notably Raytheon Missile Systems, a founding employer that hired 10 teachers in the summer of 2015. Other industry partners include Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Tucson Electric Power, the Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service and Texas Instruments.

“Teachers in Industry is a unique opportunity for businesses to invest in their future workforce,” said Colleen Niccum, a Tucson Values Teachers board member and a retired Raytheon executive who helped to create the program. “After their experience working in the field, these teachers can help their students make critical connections between what they are learning in school and their future careers. The return for businesses is significant when you consider that most middle and high school teachers influence 150 students each year.”

Teachers in Industry is one of the most effective teacher retention programs in Arizona, a state that faces a huge retention problem, losing over 40 percent of new teachers by the end of their second years. In contrast, more than 90 percent of the teachers who have participated in Teachers in Industry have remained in the profession. STEM businesses and industries are concerned about Arizona’s future work force and also about the quality of education in general, because their employees send their children to Arizona schools.

“Developing the best teachers and keeping them in the profession is key,” said Bruce Johnson, University of Arizona department head of teaching, learning and sociocultural studies, co-director of the University of Arizona STEM Learning Center and principal investigator of Teachers in Industry. He added, “Teachers in Industry helps teachers implement strategies for bringing STEM practices from their workplaces to their classrooms and involves them in a network of support—fellow STEM teachers, industry partners and university faculty—that continues after their final year in the program.”

For more information about Teachers in Industry, or to apply, visit http://teachersinindustry.arizona.edu/.

The following are two examples of how graduates of Teachers in Industry—and their students—have benefited from the program:

·        Scott Weiler is an engineering and robotics teacher at Amphitheater Middle School in Tucson. Through Teachers in Industry, he worked for three years at Tucson’s Paragon Space Development Corporation, where he learned about life-support systems and building the equipment for the Orion spacecraft, which was launched last December. The week leading up to the launch, Weiler shared the importance of the mission with his students, taught them the mechanics behind rockets and explained how he and his co-workers developed the systems. This year, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized Weiler as its 2015 Southern Arizona Educator of the Year. Because of Weiler’s work in industry, he realized that he could bring educational and career opportunities to his students. He says his low-income students take away more from his engineering and robotics class than students in other districts might because they are “really struggling to want something more.” In 2012, he founded Girl Power in Science and Engineering, a club for girls at his middle school.

·        Lisa Kist is a 2012 graduate of the master’s degree option. Kist entered Teachers in Industry as a new science teacher, and during that time she worked at Raytheon in its virtual reality lab. Through that connection, Raytheon and the Tucson Unified School District created a virtual reality lab at her school, and Kist now teaches in that lab full time. In the classroom, middle-school students design and model their own virtual reality projects and are able to visit Raytheon’s virtual reality facilities. The goal is to inspire students to pursue careers that could lead them to jobs at high-tech companies. Since her graduation, Kist has also become a board member for Tucson Values Teachers and has led a team of teachers from her school to be part of the inaugural Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows at the University of Notre Dame Center for STEM Education.

About Teachers in Industry
Teachers in Industry, founded in 2009, is a retention and development program for STEM teachers. It pairs coursework at the University of Arizona with paid summer employment in Arizona STEM businesses to allow teachers to earn professional development credits or master’s degrees. One of the main goals is to help teachers bring real-world STEM industry experience into their classrooms.

About Tucson Values Teachers
Tucson Values Teachers is a regional economic development initiative created by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council to unify the community in action to retain, recruit and reward K-12 teachers who play a central role in the region’s economic prosperity and well-being.

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