September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Raising the Prestige of Teaching STEM

Posted: Friday, May 20th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

What makes a career prestigious?  Is it the power it wields? The number of people it impacts? The required number years of training? The amount of the monthly paycheck? According to dictionary.com, prestige is defined as:

“…reputation or influence arising from success, achievement, rank, or other favorable attributes.”

Space Shuttle Independence Houston Space Center Photo by Lisa Hegdahl

Space Shuttle Independence
Houston Space Center Photo by Lisa Hegdahl

At the Houston Space Center, control site for 17 Apollo missions, 275 representatives gathered for the 5th Annual 100Kin10 Partner Summit to explore the question of how to continue to go above and beyond in taking on the grand challenges of training and retaining great STEM teachers.   One of those challenges is identified as –  “teaching lacks prestige and is not widely perceived as a top career choice for STEM graduates”.  Small group sessions allowed partners to examine the issue from a variety of perspectives and experiences.

What is 100Kin10?

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama “announced a national goal to prepare 100,000 new teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math over the next decade.”

100Kin10 is an expanding network of more than 230 partner organizations, each taking on a piece of work to contribute to the goal of 100,000 excellent STEM teachers.  CSTA became a member in 2013 joining the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies, among others, that contribute to the goal by recruiting stronger STEM teachers, transforming how STEM teachers are hired, supported, and developed, or changing policy, sharing the STEM story with the wider world, and contributing funds towards the 100Kin10 goal.

STEM Teacher Image

Hegdahl2According to Zachary Levine of TEACH, there are several contributing factors to the current image of STEM teachers.  Most people believe that teachers primarily deliver instruction, administer quizzes, and assign homework.  However the STEM classroom of 2016 looks much different than the classrooms of our grandparents, parents, and even those of my 23 year old nephew.   The Next Generation of Science Standards, Common Core, and advancements in technology have transformed classrooms into problem solving and sense making environments that have in turn required changes in the role of STEM teachers and how they interact with their students.

Do these skills look familiar?

  • Public speaking that can captivate a room and inspire interest in any topic
  • Thinking on one’s feet and showing poise under pressure
  • Setting long term goals for people and then mapping out steps that lead to that goal
  • Motivating people and earning their trust
  • Analyzing data to drive decisions
  • Having an incredibly strong work ethic

Hegdahl3While teachers may readily recognize them as skills they use daily in their classrooms, it might be surprising to know that they are also skills developed at Stanford’s School of Business.  Turning the focus from what teachers do to the expertise needed to carry out the role of a teacher, is critical when attempting to update the image of STEM teaching.

Melanie Narish, a Talent Officer for Great Hearts Academies, believes there are three ways to increase STEM teacher prestige.

  1. Change the language about why we teach STEM –
    1. STEM teaching is a noble tradition that is not all about the answers, but about the questions.
    2. Teachers teach these subjects because the subjects are amazing. STEM content allows us to have awe of the world around us.
  2. Cultivate teachers who exude wonder and inquiry.
    1. Professional development should invigorate teachers as well as students.
  3. Veteran teachers should interact with college students who show an interest in STEM teaching.
    1. Determine which teachers would represent the profession well.
    2. Go out to the students and meet them in person.
    3. Share the true vision of the life of STEM teachers.
      1. Share the joy and nobility of the profession through stories.
      2. Have students reflect on what will make them happy in a lifelong profession.

100kin10The 100Kin10 organization identified the root causes of low STEM Teaching prestige as:

  • Insufficient incentives to join the profession
  • Cultural norms devalue teaching
  • Lack of diversity in the STEM teacher workforce
  • Poor teaching conditions
  • Lack of support and understanding from higher education

Although I participated in several discussions around this topic over the two day Summit, I would be dishonest if I said that we reached a consensus about the reasons for the lack of STEM teaching prestige or the next best course of action.  I did, however, receive a new awareness of the concerns of the larger 100Kin10 partnership around the issue and how it will affect the goal of cultivating 100,000 new STEM teachers in, now, five years.  CSTA is committed to the 100Kin10 goal and continues to move forward to promote high quality science instruction by highly skilled science teachers.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of CSTA.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.