Press Release

Subcommittee Discusses STEM Professionals as Volunteers, Mentors, and Teachers in K-12 STEM Education

By SpaceRef Editor
November 3, 2011
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(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing entitled, “STEM in Action: Transferring knowledge from the Workplace to the Classroom.” The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the role that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals can play in improving K-12 STEM education. The hearing focused on approaches and programs that encourage and assist STEM professionals who want to volunteer and serve as mentors to K-12 students and teachers or want to transition to a second career as a K-12 teacher.

Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) said, “It is easiest to attract students to STEM careers when they are inspired by the best and brightest teachers, mentors, and professionals. This is especially true at the K-12 level, where researchers can play a unique role in improving STEM education by volunteering, serving as mentors to students, and by becoming STEM teachers themselves.”

He continued, “We know that the success of students is highly dependent on the quality and effectiveness of their teachers. In fact the number one recommendation of the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm report was to train more highly-qualified STEM teachers and to enhance the content knowledge of current ones. Professional scientists and engineers already possess strong content knowledge, so they have potential to be great STEM teachers if given the opportunity to develop the skills needed in the classroom.” Mr. Lipinski cited the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Federal program that he is particularly proud due to the Committee’s role in authorizing it. The program was authorized and expanded upon in the America COMPETES Act and the America COMPETES Act Reauthorization and includes NSF Teaching Fellowships for STEM professionals who want to complete their masters in education, get certified, and transition into a career in teaching.

Members heard from an NSF Noyce grantee, a STEM professional who made the transition into teaching herself, and witnesses from companies, including IBM and Abbott Vascular, that have programs in place to help their own STEM professionals transition into full-time careers in STEM teaching or to serve as volunteers and mentors in their own communities. Members and witnesses discussed how best to prepare STEM professionals to use their own experiences to inspire and educate K-12 students in STEM. They also explored how existing programs could be scaled out to underserved, including rural, communities.

Though the witness panel did not include a representative from the federal government, Mr. Lipinski also emphasized the role that the federal STEM workforce plays in inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM fields. He said, “Historically, NASA has been the most visible example, helping to create an entire generation of scientists and engineers…I find that today’s students are equally inspired and energized by the scientific and technological challenges we face in energy and the environment. There is great value in connecting talented federal scientists and engineers from the Department of Energy, NOAA, and the other mission agencies, with STEM students who have a passion for these issues.”

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SpaceRef staff editor.