Independent work took on a whole new meaning in Gena Schleimer’s science classroom during the past year.
Gena, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at St. Agnes Catholic School in Roeland Park, Kansas, is the 400th graduate of the National Institute for STEM Education Teacher Certification program. She describes the self-paced STEM certification program as “eye-opening.”
Gena credits the self-reflection component of NISE’s teacher certification with her classroom transformation. “I saw the biggest change in my practice when I really turned over the reigns to students. I had thought I was doing that a lot before, but it wasn’t even close to what I could have been doing,” she laughed.
“When I had [students] process through and allowed them time to think critically instead of me interrupting them all the time to ‘help,’ the growth I saw was amazing.”
Gena added her students’ assessment scores have “gone through the roof” on the Kansas state test, as well as their scores for NWEA MAP, a national assessment that gauges students’ proficiency and growth in science, math, reading and English Language Arts.
STEM needs and opportunities in education and the workplace continue to expand exponentially in the United States. In the past 16 years, STEM jobs increased by 26 percent compared to six percent across all occupations. Meanwhile, the comparatively low rates of STEM graduates require U.S. employers to rely on skilled foreign workers. The reality to be confronted is that educators — and I include myself here — are not yet developing the workforce needed to fill our country’s STEM needs today or in the future. As a result, our graduates are not prepared to grasp the many STEM opportunities available to them.
At the same time, STEM occupations are, and will continue to be, among the top-paying positions in the nation. In 2013, workers in STEM occupations earned a median annual wage of $76,000 — compared to a median annual wage of $35,080 for all workers (Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2014.) The bottom line is: Career positions in STEM fields are plentiful, financially lucrative, and increasing at a much faster pace than other occupations, yet there are not enough American workers to fill them. Continue reading “Preparing Graduates to Meet STEM Needs and Opportunities”