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Teachers in Industry

STEM Educators Gain Real-World Experience By Gabrielle Fimbres Peering through a pair of safety goggles, Tracie Van Ert inspects particulates that fluoresce brilliantly as she determines the most effective way of cleaning telescopes at Raytheon Missile Systems, aided by a robot. For this Tucson Unified School District teacher, this is more than just a summer job. Van Ert is learning valuable industry skills in Raytheon’s fusion innovation lab to take back to her students. Van Ert is one of 38 educators who are part of Teachers in Industry, a program of Tucson Values Teachers and the University of Arizona. She was among seven teachers who worked at Raytheon this summer, earning industry wages. The business-education partnership features a UA master’s degree program for full-time STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – teachers who are placed in industry in the summer. Teachers gain experience in workforce needs, which they take back with them to the classroom. Van Ert is earning a master’s degree in teaching and teacher education from the UA College of Education while working throughout the school year at TUSD as an instructional technologist for language acquisition. “How can we prepare kids for the business world if we’ve never been part of it? My experience at Raytheon allows me to tell kids what the opportunities are,” said Van Ert, 35. Hunter Rosen, a principal engineer at Raytheon and Van Ert’s supervisor, said the program benefits both education and industry. “Tracie brings a tremendous benefit

to our team – her creativity, problemsolving, looking at things from a different perspective,” Rosen said. “It’s rewarding to know not only are we getting a benefit but that Tracie and

Respect, Reward, Invest in Teachers It’s a tough time to be a teacher. Roughly half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year, according to a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, a turnover that costs the nation’s school’s as much as $2.2 billion a year. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future estimates that onethird of new teachers leave after three years, and 46 percent are gone within five years. Tucson statistics are also concerning. According to a 2013 survey of 1,417 Southern Arizona teachers conducted by Strongpoint Marketing and sponsored by Tucson Values Teachers: • 27 percent report they are not likely to be teaching in Southern Arizona five years from now • Nearly two-fifths are not likely to recommend their profession to others The goal of TVT, which is supported by the business community, is to attract and retain quality teachers. “Business leaders realize the quality of the teacher in the classroom is the single most important factor in student achievement,” said Katie Rogerson, TVT’s interim executive director. “Business leaders want to make sure we value our teachers. Respect, reward and investment in our teachers all goes toward that.”

other teachers are taking their experience to their schools.” Van Ert studied how efficient carbon dioxide “snow” is in removing particulates without using harmful chemicals. “It hits the surface with particles that evaporate without leaving residue behind,” she said. Remaining particulates fluoresce in different colors, depending on their size. Based on her work this summer, Van Ert was inspired to hold a competition among her students on creating the most effective water filter, and Raytheon engineers will judge the results. Van Ert got a firsthand look at the collaboration, creativity and communication that take place at Raytheon. “There is a wonderful cooperative spirit here, and these are skills students need,” she said. “I can take this back to the classroom.” Brian Anguiz, a 30-year-old math teacher at Sahuarita Middle School, spent this summer creating a template to automatically track drawing changes for Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle program. It required trial and error, and learning high-level Excel programs. “What Brian is doing for us is creating a template that in the long run will save the company money,” said Barbara Nichols, operations manager for the EKV program. The EKV is designed to defend the United States against intercontinental ballistic missiles. “It will help engineers know what’s going on at any given time,” Nichols said. Anguiz joined Teachers in Industry for professional development credit. continued on page 46 >>> Fall 2014 > > > BizTucson 45