Local workplaces seeking STEM teacher expertise

Jace Arends, a mathematics teacher at Roosevelt High School, learned how the content that he teaches connects to the world of construction through The Weitz Company and the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program.

If you are a teacher, you have probably wondered how your mathematics or science topics are used behind the walls of the manufacturing plant across town, or what kinds of roof-beam geometry and cement wall chemistry the construction crew uses to build that bridge up north or those new lofts downtown. Imagine the appeal of local, applied context for the units you teach for next year’s students.

If you are an employer operating a business, you have probably wondered how to convey the rewarding career opportunities available to young people in your community and how to help shape what is taught so they come to you job-ready. 

Employers, teachers, wonder no more. The Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program, now in its ninth year, has bridged the worlds of work and education for hundreds of teachers in dozens of workplaces from manufacturing plant floors to hospital emergency rooms and from quality control laboratories to wildlife sanctuaries.

From such diverse settings, two common outcomes prevail—businesses bottom lines benefit from expert teachers’ summer contributions, and learners benefit at the hands of educators who make lessons locally meaningful while coaching students about nearby jobs that await.

Take it from Weitz Company Teacher Extern Jace Arends, a mathematics teacher at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines:

“The most impactful part was seeing how data driven everything is becoming. It's not good enough in this world to just say ‘I think’ one thing or another. Of course, you have to use intuition in some spots, but data is becoming so important in all aspects.”

Or, from John Deere Dubuque Works Teacher Extern Amanda Goranson, mathematics and computer science teacher at Dubuque Senior High School:

“I try to think of it as not just industry connections as real world content, but also—as a teacher of upper level students—as an introduction to different jobs. I feel like more and more students have no idea what they want to do with life, or their goals are vague like ‘engineer.’”

Employers who take part as a Workplace Host report at a 97% clip that the Teacher Extern provided significant contributions to worksite operations. They also agree nearly unanimously at 96% that the Teacher Extern provided beneficial outside viewpoints.

Workplace Hosts and Teacher Externs are both welcome to register interest in taking part this summer at www.IowaSTEM.gov/Externships.