OSDE summer externships connect teachers, industry to better prepare students for careers

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 18, 2018) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has expanded its teacher externship program connecting teachers to businesses related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) during the summer. Part of the department’s ongoing efforts to close the workforce gap between high school graduates and future STEM careers, the program is a direct result of OSDE’s Teacher Shortage Task Force.

Business and community members on the task force had recommended paid STEM externships as a way to increase the frequency of meaningful STEM instruction in the classroom while also providing a unique professional development opportunity for teachers. Participating teachers walk away with a better understanding of the practical applications of STEM instruction through hands-on experience.

“By connecting and empowering teachers to high-quality professional development in STEM fields, we are ensuring that our students have the skills and tools they need for success in the 21st-century workplace,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “Life beyond high school necessitates an ever-changing skill set. This program connects classrooms to high-paying careers in Oklahoma and bolsters our efforts to provide relevance and rigor to STEM education and workforce development in our schools.”

Terracon, a consulting engineering firm in Oklahoma City, was the first business to host a paid, two-week teacher externship in summer 2017 and is hosting another externship this summer. The list of participating businesses has expanded this year to include Kimray, Inc., an Oklahoma City manufacturing firm; and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. OSDE is currently seeking additional businesses interested in exposing teachers and students to careers in their industries.

Participating businesses receive a resource toolkit from OSDE, and the OSDE STEM team conducts virtual meetings with participating teachers throughout the process to emphasize and highlight classroom implementation strategies. Teachers are asked to look for what might connect and translate to STEM instruction, including how businesses use problem-solving, data analysis and critical thinking in day-to-day operations.

The program coincides with OSDE’s 8-year strategic plan for education, Oklahoma Edge. The plan prioritizes learning for the long run by ensuring all kids develop a useful and meaningful plan for life after high school.

“Learning for the long run means that in addition to what they need to know, students must understand why they need to know it and where they want to go with it,” Hofmeister said. “The summer externship program benefits everyone involved. Teachers are able to grow professionally while learning about future careers for their students, businesses have an opportunity to ensure that K-12 education is better aligned with the needs of their industries and students are exposed to a variety of career paths. We are thrilled to see growing interest in both the business and education communities, and we look forward to continuing and expanding the program in the future.”

STEM-related businesses in Oklahoma interested in offering teacher externships should contact Dr. Robyn Miller, OSDE deputy superintendent for education effectiveness & policy research, at robyn.miller@sde.ok.gov.

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Last updated on June 18, 2018