Walls between school and work tumble down with Teacher Externships

Iowa educators attend a Teacher Externship orientation
Erin Weatherly (center), life science instructor at Marshalltown High School, shares her excitement with fellow educators at a Teacher Externship orientation earlier this month.

With an adventurous spirit that would rival Magellan, nearly 40 educators throughout Iowa will cross cultural boundaries into the world of commerce this summer, applying their skills and updating their understanding of how their school subjects apply to life beyond the classroom wall. In its seventh season, Real World Externships for Teachers of Mathematics, Science and Technology kick off with an immersive orientation session that prepares them for what lies ahead and how to make the most of the experience.

“Externships Orientation week is always an exciting time, and it's an honor to work with such dedicated teachers who are so ready and willing to learn,” said Meghan Reynolds, a program coordinator of the Teacher Externships program. “The meetings focus on the professional development aspect of Teacher Externships, with the goal of giving Teacher Externs the tools to effectively bring their experiences back to the classroom.“

Three, day-long professional development sessions held across the state introduce Teacher Externs to the program expectations, evaluation and assignments, prominently including the idea of project-based learning to spring from their windows into the world of business and industry. This year, teachers will create a video lesson in their final projects that can be implemented back in their classrooms to give students a first-person account of how studies in STEM have real-world applications.

For example, Marshalltown life science teacher Erin Weatherly will extern at Central Iowa Healthcare in Marshalltown with the Dietetics Department, and Ames life science teacher Mary Glenn will extern at Barilla American in Ames. She sat next to Weatherly at the orientation meeting in Jester Park and said, “I ask my students to step out of their comfort zones all the time when I ask them to try something different. I thought it was time that I step out of my comfort zone and try something new, too.”

In early August, all Teacher-Externs from across Iowa will convene to discuss their experiences and share project ideas for the classroom. STEM Council members and friends are invited to follow their learning adventures chronicled at weekly blogs: www.iowastem.gov/educators/externships/extern-blogs.