Tomorrow’s STEM Education
On Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting a group of fascinating people working in Delaware schools. They are the first cohort of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) residents, and they are dynamic, excited, and a great example of how Race to the Top is actually benefitting Delaware classrooms.
This year, the STEM residency program is being piloted at Delcastle and Howard High Schools, both in the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District (and both part of the Vision Network). The program is coordinated through the University of Delaware, where the eight residents are completing a Master’s degree in teaching.
But this is more than a student teaching experience; this program is intense. The residents work side-by-side with “field instructors” (collaborating teachers) in classrooms every day, since the beginning of the school year. In the evenings – sometimes up to four days per week – they attend classes at UD in pursuit of earning a full 33-credit Master’s degree in 10 months. The residents’ backgrounds vary widely – one is a 20+ year veteran chemist from AstraZeneca, one interned with NASA, and several are recent college graduates who were drawn to teaching after studying a STEM-related field in-depth.
The classroom at Delcastle High School where we met was abuzz with excitement and enthusiasm at yesterday’s gathering. The residents explained how thrilled they are to be the on the ground floor of the residency program, and help shape it as it grows (next year’s cohort will grow to 15-20 STEM residents, and the program aims to eventually spread statewide). They also are grateful for the experience of being at the school for a full year, so they can really get to know the students and get involved in professional development and school administration activities – some Howard residents have even taken part in Partnership Zone planning efforts. The “field instructors” are also huge fans of the program, explaining that the residents bring so much content-knowledge into the classroom and are able to augment class discussions and bring real-world experience to every lesson. One of these collaborating teachers also even commented that working with a resident has helped him reflect on his own teaching and allowed him to grow as a teacher. And students can’t seem to get enough from the residents – they look to them for advice on how to prepare for 21st Century jobs, on what courses to take in college, and to explore STEM fields they previously didn’t know existed.
The state, obviously, couldn’t be prouder of this program and its initial pioneers. These residents all have Delaware roots, and plan to teach in the state for many years to come (the program requires a one-year commitment, but all the residents expressed their intention to stay beyond that … after all, this is home to them). As this program grows, it will be an important tool for attracting great STEM teachers to schools that traditionally have a hard time recruiting folks with science and math backgrounds.
As I left Delcastle, I was totally energized by this program and the people in it. This is an example of what Race to the Top is about – building innovative, collaborative ideas that have real positive impacts on Delaware’s students – our 21st Century leaders.