- A "train the trainer" partnership between Western Kentucky University's Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science and its National STEM Scholar Program is providing a week of professional development and networking to nearly a dozen middle-school science teachers, EdTech: Focus on K-12 reports.
- The program is helping 10 teachers, who come from various locations nationwide, how to teach modern science skills while establishing a community to support them in embracing a specific challenge in their classrooms over the course of the following school year.
- EdTech highlights the importance of establishing such communities, noting the efforts of companies such as Microsoft to connect innovative educators to share best practices and lesson plans. Building that sort of "buddy" system with peers can offer valuable connections that are useful when addressing various challenges.
Demand for STEM skills has only risen in the American workforce in recent years, but in an environment where schools and districts are navigating difficult teacher shortages in general, finding specialized educators equipped with the most up-to-date skill sets can prove especially difficult. Some states have made compromises to fill holes by making it easier for professionals in related fields to get teacher licenses, and those can succeed with the proper professional learning opportunities.
But programs like this one from WKU can also help states retool the educators they already have, who may simply need an update to subject areas they already teach. In Florida, the Hillsborough County and Polk County school districts have similarly taken advantage of a three-year, $4.5 million Math-Science Partnership Grant awarded in 2014 by the state's Department of Education to offer PD opportunities to STEM teachers.
Attracting more teachers, especially those with specialized skill sets, will likely require additional funding for better salaries and benefits in many districts. Engaging with lawmakers, and encouraging the wider school community to do so, is paramount while working with what resources are available in the meantime.