STEM Skills Courses Aid Out-of-Work Teachers

In an attempt to put out-of-work teachers back in classrooms by helping them earn credentials in the hard-to-fill areas of mathematics and science, California State University-Sacramento, and the Sacramento City Unified School District have begun facilitating STEM skill courses.

A $300,000 grant from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation is paying for the course work and classroom time for 40 teachers enrolled in the program, writes Melody Gutierrez and Cathy Locke at the Sacramento Bee.

CSUS professor Pia Wong, the program’s project director, said:

“We are building up our numbers for high-needs areas and sending a strong message to new teachers and laid-off teachers that they shouldn’t give up hope.”

The program will include recently laid off Sacramento teachers and newly qualified teachers who have yet to find employment.

Wong said:

“We are trying to make it possible for them to have higher priority on hiring lists and lower priority on layoff lists.

“In a different budget context, they would all be working as teachers.”

Hilary Scott, 26, is a student teacher who wants to teach fourth grade. She enrolled in the science portion of the program.

Scott said:

“Since the job market is limited, I figured this was a really good opportunity to go back and get more education and learn more about science.”

The additional training aims to give students better instructional skills and a stronger background in math and science.

Cancy McArn, a Human Resources director at Sacramento City Unified, said:

“Our goal is to get teachers back to work and, in doing so, serve the function of increasing their knowledge base in science and math and making them more employable.”

This comes as educators across Boston are noting a shift in the emphasis of the curriculum they’re expected to teach, as more schools introduce science, technology, engineering, and math – the STEM subjects – to newly reading preschool students.

Preschools have long dabbled with bits and pieces of science-based teaching in their everyday learning: Playing with blocks, for example, learning numbers, and coloring are all aspects of engineering, math, and science, writes Michael B. Farrell at the Boston Globe.

“But what is happening now is that such lessons are becoming formalized within a preschool curriculum. And within the early childhood development community there is a greater emphasis on training teachers to turn simple play into lessons that encourage critical thinking.”

Many education experts, policy makers, and politicians are noting a sea change in the importance of STEM subjects and the way we teach them, pushing for a greater focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.

As part of President Obama’s budget plan for the next year, Obama has asked Congress for $80 million to train 100,000 math and science teachers in an effort to produce an estimated 1 million more college graduates with degrees in those subjects.