Teachers in Industry, founded in 2009, is a retention and development program for science, technology, engineering and math (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 a master of arts degree. One of the main goals is to help teachers bring real-world STEM industry experience into their classrooms.
Who participates in the program?
Mostly middle school and high school STEM teachers. The program accepts a limited number of elementary teachers if they are content specialists and/or if they have the content and skills background needed to be successful in a business environment.
Who created it?
Teachers in Industry was created through a partnership between the University of Arizona College of Education’s Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Tucson Values Teachers, and Tucson-area STEM businesses and industries, particularly Raytheon Missile Systems.
Who leads it?
University of Arizona College of Education Dean Bruce Johnson is the Principal Investigator of Teachers in Industry. Staff include Javier Lopez, Program Director; Dr. Sanlyn Buxner, Research and Evaluation Coordinator; and Andrea Lauritzen, Coordinator.
What organizations sponsor it?
Teachers in Industry is sponsored by the University of Arizona’s Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies, the University of Arizona's STEM Learning Center, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council and Tucson Values Teachers.
How do the sponsors benefit?
Teachers in Industry sponsors recognize that Arizona is in urgent need of high-quality STEM teachers who understand how STEM is used in the real world. STEM businesses and industries are concerned about the workforce of the future 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. To do that, Teachers in Industry offers teachers the option to offset their tuition costs, helps them 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.
How do the students benefit?
Students benefit from being in classrooms with teachers who are learner-centered, who have a strong knowledge of 21st-century skills and who have real-world experience to share with them about practices used in industry and careers in STEM. Evaluation results have shown that students of teachers in the program increase in their understanding of STEM and STEM careers to a greater extent than other students. Students of teachers in the program report hearing about the use of 21st-century skills and using those skills in their STEM classes more than other students. These students also have greater confidence in their teachers’ knowledge of STEM.
How does the Arizona school system benefit?
Arizona has a huge teacher retention problem, losing over 40 percent of new teachers by the end of their second year. In contrast, more than 90 percent of the teachers who have participated in Teachers in Industry have remained in the profession.
How do the teachers benefit?
Teachers gain STEM-based content knowledge and workplace expertise, as well as insights into how to integrate practical skills into their classrooms, including problem solving and interpersonal skills. Graduates of the program report using more collaboration, more group work to solve problems, and more long-term projects that give students opportunities to work as a team. Teachers also bring knowledge of local industries back to their classrooms, allowing them to use real-world examples, to invite in guest speakers, to provide unique classroom resources and even to recruit new science fair judges! Teachers also increase students’ awareness of STEM careers, including knowledge and resources to showcase different careers in class, to discuss the wide applications of such careers, to make connections to STEM careers and to discuss employment opportunities with students.
What else motivates teachers to join?
It is a combination of the opportunity to get an affordable master’s degree with the chance to work in STEM businesses and industries. Many teachers emphasize the importance of the master’s degree; the industry pay is very important to them, as is the ability to complete the graduate degree program while being a full-time teacher. Many new applicants heard about the program from their colleagues.
Are some schools in Arizona more involved than others?
Teachers come from across the state, from Willcox to the White Mountains to Phoenix and Tucson. School involvement is closely related to business involvement, and the program leaders are working on continued expansion into rural areas, as well as increasing participation numbers in Maricopa County. They are working with some areas at the district level, as well as with individual schools.
What is the selection process for industry partners?
Businesses need to be STEM-based and have a desire to become part of improving education in Arizona. The Teachers in Industry Team works with businesses to develop viable projects for the teachers, so that the experience is valuable for both the teachers in what they can take back to their students and for the business as well in terms of getting a job done.
What kind of industry partners participate?
• One of the program’s utilities has four teachers working in various areas of the company: A math teacher has had the opportunity to go out with a crew in a helicopter using LIDAR to check electric and fiber optic lines from the air. Dots in the imaging allow the teacher to measure sag in the lines.
• Another company has a teacher analyzing water samples for total dissolved solids, total suspended solids and toxicity characteristics to monitor regulatory compliance for canals and groundwater.
• One of the program’s biotech companies has incorporated its teacher as a team member, where the primary function of this team is to develop new reagents and processes for use on new instrument platforms for tissue diagnostic applications.
How many people participate each year?
We have approximately 50 teachers involved in our program each summer.
What is the selection process for teachers?
All teachers initially submit an application to Teachers in Industry, which includes a professional essay for the master’s program applicants. The department’s science and mathematics education faculty evaluate all master’s program applicants, and Teachers in Industry team evaluate all professional development applicants. After teachers pass this initial review, we meet with them face to face for interviews to get to know them and to provide them with a deeper understanding of their commitment to Teachers in Industry. They also are required to complete a business-focused résumé, which is then distributed to the companies whose needs most closely match the skills the teachers have. Teachers interview with one or more companies, and the business has the final choice in whom they hire for the summer. Teachers who do not receive job offers are not eligible for the program that summer but may be reconsidered for the next summer. It’s generally a matter of mismatch rather than any deficiency.
What is the average level of engagement of a teacher?
All master’s degree teachers are in the program for 2.5 to three years, including three consecutive summers of employment. Professional development teachers participate for one, two or three years, but most participate for more than one year.
What is a typical teacher participant like?
The Master's of Arts in Teaching and Teacher Educaton option is focused on early and mid-career teachers. Other than that, there is no “typical” teacher participant for either the MA or PD option, other than that they are all highly motivated to improve their teaching and to provide more opportunities for their students to learn and to be successful in and beyond school. Participating teachers are employed in urban, suburban and rural schools. Many of the schools are high-minority schools, including schools on the reservations, and many or most of the schools are classified as Title I schools.
What exactly would graduation entail?
Teachers in the master’s degree option are required to take a total of 33 graduate credits which includeS STEM education courses and content courses, and to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA overall. Teachers take one or two courses each summer and at least one course each semester (which is while they are teaching full time). It’s not an easy program, but teachers tell us they love this program and that the hard work is well worth it.
What do teachers do after graduating from the program?
Here are just two of our success stories:
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, Scott 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 Scott as its 2015 Southern Arizona Educator of the Year. Because of Scott’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 classes than students in other districts might because they are “determined and really struggling to want something more.” He does projects such as a design contest where his students designed unmanned aerial vehicles as a special class project; one group won a Champions for Change competition. Another year, his students designed airports. 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. Lisa 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 Lisa 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, Lisa 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.
Are there other programs in Arizona or elsewhere that resemble Teachers in Industry?
There are several programs around the country that provide industry experiences for teachers. Well-known examples include Kenan Fellows in North Carolina and Industry Initiatives for Science & Mathematics Education (IISME) in California. Most provide the teachers with some sort of pay, stipend or fellowship. Some provide limited professional development. None of these other programs provides teachers with a master’s degree, as Teachers in Industry offers.