Teachers Are Key to Building STEM Brand

Experts call for ways to increase understanding and awareness of STEM.

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Even with the numerous conversations surrounding STEM jobs and opportunities, there has been difficulty in exciting and inspiring enough students to pursue a science, technology, engineering, or math career, experts say.

While many of the discussions focus on funding, after-school programs, and finding ways to increase the buzz around STEM, the practice of engaging teachers to pursue STEM-related teaching jobs has been lost in the conversation, Tanya Van Court, a senior vice president at Discovery Education told attendees at the U.S. News STEM SOLUTIONS summit in Dallas Friday.

"We haven't talked about the teachers very much and the roles they should be playing in STEM," Van Court says. "We cannot excite these kids without the right kind of talent in the classroom."

In today's society, students are growing up as digital natives, relying on technology to communicate, collaborate, and learn. But most high schools are not embracing this change in student behavior, notes Judah Schiller, founder and CEO of Aiko, a brand management agency.

"Schools are asking students to drop their personal lives and do it the 'school way,'" Schiller says. "Education has been doing it the same way for [many] years."

Instead of continuing this trend, teachers should be immersing themselves in these new technologies, Van Court notes. Students will increasingly become more technologically savvy, she says, and teachers need to keep up with the innovations.

"Students are very excited about the technologies they are using, but then they come to school and are asked to put them aside," she notes. "The only way we are going to have a shot at bridging the gap is figuring out how to get teachers the support to use these 21st century tools to inspire 21st century learning."

To promote this change and get more teachers involved in STEM education, teachers should be speaking with their peers in the field. There is a universal fear among many teachers that STEM is a difficult set of topics to teach, she says, and starting conversations to alleviate these fears is vital to the future of STEM in the classroom.

"We need other teachers telling them their stories about how fun STEM is, [and] how they're transforming teaching," Van Court advises. "It is a class of students collaborating, solving problems, and working together, [but] it's not enough to excite students--we really need to reach teachers."

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