If you are old enough to remember drive-in movie theaters and full-service gas stations, where the attendant not only pumped your gas but checked your oil, then you might have been taught the basis of a good education were the "Three R's: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic."
Fast forward to the 21st century where we all pump our own gas and "drive-in movies" are what's being played in the backseat on your kids iphones. And, those tried and true "Three R's" have been replaced by an emphasis on STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -- as the focus for American education.
The National Science Foundation, which has helped lead the charge for schools to prepare their students for future careers in STEM by ramping up their skill set, put it this way... "In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past."
What is STEM Education?
The definition of STEM education is a moving target because of the rapid pace of technology in our everyday lives.
Some of the core STEM classes will be familiar no matter what century you went to school, such as science basics like biology and chemistry. But other fields are just emerging, such as nanotechnology and robotics. And, there will be other fields to teach within 10 years that we haven't even heard of today.
To get snapshot of what STEM education can encompass, we looked to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement which has a list of STEM disciplines it considers when looking at the applications of foreigners who want to work in our country. Some of the topics covered:
That's just a trimmed down list of possible STEM education courses as stemdegreelist.com lists 415 total, everything from agroecology and sustainable agriculture to zoology/animal biology.
Why is STEM Education Important
STEM education is so important because a country that prides itself on technological breakthrough from the telephone to automobile to the television to the personal computer has recently been losing ground in training students for the future of things to come.
An article from Education Weekin April said: "It's become a well-known fact that most high school students are woefully unprepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math."
We wish we could say that assessment is wrong. But the numbers don't lie, and they are troubling:
The demand for STEM educators in Texas is tied directly to the rise of student interest in STEM subjects. The Houston Chronicle reported that "of the 30 valedictorians and salutatorians who graduated from Fort Bend County's two largest schools districts ... nearly two-thirds of them were young women intending to purse a career in a STEM field."
While traditionally classroom experience is prized in recruiting new teachers in Texas, those with real world experience and applicable knowledge in STEM subjects are highly sought after. Some school districts are offering incentives or higher salaries to those that can fill STEM classroom spots.
How to Become a STEM Teacher
The state of Texas has added requirements to ensure that teaching candidates moving into education from technical backgrounds have the necessary knowledge in their STEM subject by passing a content area test, as well as have the basic tools to take on the important role of teacher by passing a PPR (Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities) test.
The good news is that you don't need a degree in education. But, a college degree in any field with at least a 2.5 GPA will get you started in an Alternative Certification Program that will prepare you for the classroom with a combination of field-based, in-classroom and on-line instruction.
When you complete your Alternative Certification Program, you will be that well-rounded teacher candidate that the state of Texas is seeking... knowledgeable with real-world experience in a STEM subject and the backing of a quality teacher training program that will give you confidence as you move into the classroom.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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