Iowa workplaces opening doors to local teachers: Two JCSD engaging with local businesses

Ites, Colleen Iowa National Guard

SMS teacher Colleen Ites, right, recently completed a six-week summer teacher externship with the Iowa National Guard.

(Story submitted by Strategic America on behalf of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council)

This summer, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council matched teachers from schools across Iowa with local STEM workplaces for the eleventh year of the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program.

Our very own Colleen Ites, STEM teacher at Summit MS and Hajdi Zulic, business and computer science teacher at Johnston Middle School, are spending six weeks expanding their STEM careers and job skills knowledge at Iowa National Guard and Webspec Design. They are building new ways to connect the Teacher Externship experience directly to classroom content and 21st Century Skills identified in the Iowa Core Curriculum. Plus, these businesses enjoy the help of an educated and skilled local teacher as a participant and contributor on projects for the summer.

Over 80 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. Meghan Lang, Externship Program Coordinator, 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.”

Zulic, Hajdi Webspec 1

JMS teacher Hajdi Zulic worked with Webspec for her summer teacher externship.

The work that these teachers are doing will not only be an asset to their classroom, but to our whole district as we enhance the knowledge of and opportunities for work-based learning in Johnston schools.