Partnership Addresses Shortage of Diversity in STEM Fields
Submitted by Brian Jackson on February 4, 2013
Local organizations train diverse teachers to act as mentors in STEM fields
(White Center, WA – January 31, 2013) – Carlito Umali admits that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) were only minimally present in his education. He said that could be why he, like many teachers of color, went into the humanities rather than STEM. But through the support of a local foundation and nonprofit, he has learned to incorporate STEM into his teaching practice at TAF Academy, a STEM-focused public school in Kent with a high proportion of youth of color.
By 2018, the U.S. STEM workforce is expected to include 8.65 million workers, with science and engineering occupations projected to grow at more than double the rate of the overall U.S. labor force. This according to “Where are the STEM Students? What are their Career Interests? Where are the STEM Jobs?,” a report released this week by My College Options and STEMconnector, organizations focused on STEM education nationally.
According to the report, interest in STEM has grown among Asian, Hispanic, American Indian and White high school students, but for African American students interest remains lower than for any other ethnic group. And despite growing interest among some ethnicities, at the current rate of STEM degree production, many STEM jobs will remain unfilled.
TAF and the Martinez Foundation are working to address this locally by helping more teachers of color become STEM mentors and role models for youth of color. TAF reaches students of color through several STEM programs including TAF Academy, which the nonprofit co-manages with Federal Way Public Schools. The Martinez Foundation’s fellowship program, for people of color who want to become classroom teachers, includes funding to complete a teacher education program as well as ongoing support during teacher training and once they are hired.
Starting in 2012, several Martinez fellows are selected each year to teach a summer program that serves incoming TAF Academy students. As part of this, TAF teaches fellows how to integrate STEM into interdisciplinary, project-based lessons.
This creates an informal pipeline of highly-qualified teachers of color, like Mr. Umali, for the school.
“Like a lot of schools in this area, we’ve had trouble finding teachers of color, let alone those with backgrounds and experience in STEM,” said Chris Alejano, who leads teacher recruitment and professional development at TAF Academy. “That’s a real problem because we while we value highly qualified teachers in our classrooms, we also want the makeup of our staff to reflect that of the student populations we serve.”
“At TAF Academy I work closely with my math and science teaching partner, create unique and engaging projects, and teach beyond the limits of humanities; STEM is integral to my practice. STEM is not isolated from other subjects in the real world, so there’s no reason it should be in classrooms, either,” said Mr. Umali. “I know what we’re doing here gives students a chance to see that they can excel in STEM in real and powerful ways.”
TAF, founded in 1996 as Technology Access Foundation, is a nonprofit whose mission is to equip students of color for success in college and life through the power of a STEM education. TAF serves hundreds of underprivileged youth each year through innovative programs that use interdisciplinary, project-based lessons to connect STEM learning to real life. TAF makes systemic change through creative partnerships, by building on our community’s existing investments in public-school facilities and resources to help more students of color succeed in college and STEM-based careers. http://www.techaccess.org/
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