Iowa workplaces opening doors to local teachers: Colleen Ites engaging with Iowa National Guard
(Article submitted by Jamie Lamb with the Strategic America PR Firm)
This summer, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council matched teachers from schools across Iowa with local STEM workplaces for the tenth year of the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program.
Johnston’s very own Colleen Ites, engineering and life/physical science teacher at Summit Middle School, is spending six weeks expanding her STEM careers and job skills knowledge at Iowa National Guard. She is building new ways to connect the Teacher Externship experience directly to classroom content and 21st Century Skills identified in the Iowa Core Curriculum. Plus, Iowa National Guard enjoys the help of an educated and skilled local teacher as a participant and contributor on projects for the summer.
Colleen spent the summer working with the Iowa National Guard to identify and analyze STEM learning that occurs in a variety of National Guard Units. She saw and experienced different ways STEM learning impacts and occurs in a CRC Maintenance Unit, the Sustainment Training Center, the Firing Range, a Weapons, Surveillance, Radio and Radar Unit, the Distributed Training and Operation Center, and a Civil Support Team. Colleen plans on developing multiple units involving content covered during this time with the Guard.
Over 70 teachers across the state were matched with workplaces near their school districts based on that organization’s needs, the teacher’s skills and the subject they teach. By keeping the matches local, these school-business partnerships create lasting partnerships between the teacher, the teacher’s local school and that business/industry, ultimately providing students with STEM career information about business and industry in their community, as well as an answer to the question, “When am I ever going to use this?”
“By matching the teachers’ skills and abilities with the goals of the extern host there is a tremendous return on the investment of time and effort put into the Externship,” said Jason Lang, who manages the STEM Teacher Externships Program. Jason’s wife, Meghan Lang, is the Program coordinator and observes that “the teachers often focus on the content knowledge that may be needed in the workplace setting. Instead they very quickly recognize that the jobs of the future are also about 21st Century Skills. The workforce of tomorrow is all about creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.”
The work that Colleen is doing will not only be an asset to her classroom, but to our whole district as we enhance the knowledge of and opportunities for work-based learning in Johnston schools.