Supporting our STEM teachers

According to an Arizona Science Center report, 40 percent of school administrators have the most difficulty filling math teaching positions and 30 face the same issue with science teaching positions.

The STEM Teacher Shortage and Arizona’s Future was published earlier this month and focuses on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher shortage issue in Arizona and the impact it has on students and the growing demand for STEM-related jobs.

“If you think about the K through sixth, K through eighth grades- are they prepared? And, you look at test scores and you look at teacher resources and the shortage of science teachers, there’s a lot of barriers there. And so, it’s going to take organizations like ours, universities and all of us coming together to solve this problem,” said Chevy Humphrey, the Hazel A. Hare President and CEO of Arizona Science Center.   

“Obviously, we know from decades of research that having a high-quality teacher at the front of the classroom is the single most critical factor in student success and that great teachers matter more than any other aspect of schooling. Great teachers, successful students, prosperous community- that’s all pretty straightforward,” Katie Rogerson, Tucson Values Teachers chief operating officer, said.

In an effort to address this issue, the Arizona Science Center offers the Science Teacher Residency (STaR) program to Arizona science teachers.

The STaR program is supported by Helios Education Foundation and provides STEM teacher training to third through eighth grade teachers.

“We actually have them come on site at the [Arizona] Science Center, we put them up into housing and they’re here with us for the week,” Humphrey said. “They go through training, they are exposed to industry leaders, they do an industry field trip and we talk about some of the challenges they face in the classroom and we try to find solutions.”

The Arizona Science Center continues to provide resources and professional development after the week of training.

“It’s a cohort of science teachers and they stay connected and they actually work with each other to help build their capacity of learning,” Humphrey explained.

Tucson Values Teachers offers the Teachers in Industry program to help STEM teachers in southern Arizona gain experience in the field they teach.

“They get to learn some real-world skills that they can then take back and translate in their curriculum to students,” Rogerson said.

She explained that during summer teachers can work in positions at companies like Raytheon, Tucson Electric Power and Tucson Medical Center.  

When teachers participate in programs that strengthen their skills and keep them up-to-date on STEM industry positions, they can prepare their students to pursue a postsecondary education in STEM.

Achieve60AZ, an education-focused alliance, aims to see 60 percent of Arizonans ages 25 to 64 with a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.

“If we increase the college attainment rate from 43 to 60 percent in the next ten years and we more widely promote the skills that come with a high-quality STEM education, we can generate an additional 3.5 billion dollars annually for the state. That’s huge,” Humphrey said.

She added, “That’s why it’s essential we develop in the state a stronger pipeline for STEM talent to bolster this competitiveness.”

Sierra Ciaramella

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