President Barack Obama on Jan. 6 announced the expansion of the Educate to Innovate program he launched last November, including the creation of several new partnerships to help attract, develop, reward, and retain outstanding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers.
These partnerships build upon initiatives already announced by Obama Nov. 23, and include programs involving major companies, universities, foundations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. (See “Obama launches new STEM initiatives.”)
“Several new public-private partnerships are going to offer additional training to more than 100,000 teachers and prepare more than 10,000 new teachers in the next five years alone,” Obama said.
“And through the partnerships we are announcing today, support for the Educate to Innovate campaign has doubled to more than half a billion dollars in private funding–that’s a figure that we only expect to grow.”
The new partnerships include:
• Intel’s Science and Math Teachers Initiative. The company will launch a 10-year, $200 million campaign to provide training to more than 100,000 U.S. math and science teachers over the next three years, with elementary school teachers participating in an intensive 80-hour professional development math course and teachers receiving new web-based instruction and collaboration tools, including targeted professional development for science teachers.
• Expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative’s UTeach Program. The expansion brings together companies, foundations, states, and federal agencies to increase the reach of the UTeach program and prepare more than 4,500 undergraduates in STEM subjects to be new math and science teachers by 2015, and 7,000 by 2018.
• The presidents of more than 75 major public universities are committing to collectively prepare 10,000 science and math teachers annually by 2015.
• The PBS Innovative Educators Challenge will see PBS and its 356 partner stations collaborate with the National Science Teachers Association to launch a multi-year competition called the “Innovative Educators Challenge,” which will highlight 50 outstanding teachers each year.
• Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Math and Science will provide future math and science teachers with a master’s degree in education and place them in difficult-to-staff middle and high schools.
“Intel has worked for decades to improve science and math education, so the president’s initiative is exciting and timely,” said Shelly Esque, vice president and legal and corporate affairs director for the Corporate Affairs Group. “At Intel, we feel strongly that the real magic to help young minds compete in an innovative society comes from the teachers.”
Texas Instruments Chief Executive Officer Rich Templeton said the Obama administration’s commitment to increasing all facets of STEM education is not only encouraging, but necessary. Texas Instruments is one of many companies supporting the UTeach program.
“The shortage of math and science teachers has reached crisis proportions. This is about ensuring that we have an ecosystem that supports innovation in the U.S,” Templeton said. “The administration’s support for science research funding and STEM education are critical steps forward.”
Obama stressed that teachers are not the only ones who need to make an effort in improving STEM education.
“I’m calling on all 200,000 scientists who work for the federal government to do their part in their communities: to speak at schools, to create hands-on learning opportunities … and to help toke that same curiosity in students which perhaps led them to pursue a career in science in the first place,” he said.
The announcement came at the same time as Obama honored more than 100 math and science educators with Presidential Awards for Excellence in STEM Mentoring and Monitoring.
“In the end, the work that you do, and the difference you make, is what all these reforms are all about,” he said.
“Whether it’s showing students how to record the habits of a resident reptile, or teaching kids to test soil samples on a class trip to Costa Rica, whether it’s helping young people from tough neighborhoods in Chicago to become ‘Junior Paleontologists,’ or creating a mentoring program that connects engineering students with girls and minorities, who are traditionally underserved in the field—all of you are demonstrating why teaching and mentoring is so important, and why we have to support you, equip you, and send in some reinforcements for you,” Obama told the educators.
Karen Nesbit, first grade teacher at Pleasant View Elementary School in Wisconsin, was among the educators receiving the awards.
She said traveling to Washington and interacting with so many other STEM educators inspired her.
“It’s like being able to touch hope,” she said. “Everyone here is so hopeful and passionate.”
Nesbit said the Obama administration’s investment in STEM is a powerful testament to the importance of her role, and it shows that federal leaders understand that importance.
“Many times I feel like I’m on the Titanic, but now I feel like I’m on the Queen Mary,” she said.