No Summer Break for These Teachers

GW’s Teachers in Industry Project participants learned skills from area business leaders to bring back to their classrooms.

July 23, 2012

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Participants of GW's Teachers in Industry Project are shown in the air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport.

Although George Washington’s Teachers in Industry Project comes to a close this week, the knowledge participants have gained has yet to start its journey through area middle and high school classrooms.

The project, hosted by GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus, is a three-week externship where teachers learn about the work environment in various companies focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), then bring that knowledge back to their classrooms, letting it shape their lesson plans, objectives and goals.

“The program is designed to bridge the gap between what is actually taught in the classroom and what young people need to know in order to contribute to the STEM-based workforce of the future,” said Janet Schiavone, a faculty member in the GW Graduate School of Education and Human Development and co-director of the program.

For the program’s fourth year, 19 teachers from Loudoun County Public Schools, Prince William County Schools and Manassas City Schools participated in two four-day externships and heard from executives at top regional businesses including Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions Division, Neustar, REHAU North America, Telos Corporation, Fortessa, Inc., Inova Loudoun Hospital, Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Water and DBI Architects. Lockheed Martin is a third-year sponsor of the program.

For Nathalia Hardy, an English teacher at Freedom High School in Loudoun County, the time spent at Neustar, a technology and information services company, was especially enlightening. Ms. Hardy said her experience emphasized the importance of students’ flexibility, adaptability, ability to work collaboratively and communicate effectively in the workplace.

“These are skills I can help my students develop now,” she said.

That’s exactly what Neustar Director of Corporate Finance Rick Pearson hoped the company could achieve in this partnership.

“Neustar is honored to be one of the companies to host a teaching group from the GW Teachers in Industry Project this summer,” Mr. Pearson said. “We believe in the project’s mission and at Neustar we focus our efforts on promoting and supporting STEM education initiatives in the communities where our employees live and work.”

The program’s effectiveness received high marks from teachers, who also noted they learned about creative solutions to problems, critical thinking and leadership and management skills.

“I think that all teachers, guidance counselors and administrative staff should go through this program,” said Martin Schulz, MBA ’91, a math teacher at Tuscarora High School in Loudoun County. “If we want to prepare our students for the 21st-century workplace, I can’t think of a better way for us to be armed and ready.”

Industry-education partnerships like the Teachers in Industry Project have long-reaching goals in workforce development.

“We were honored to be asked by George Washington University to participate again this year in the Teachers in Industry Project, and it was a real privilege hosting these leaders in education who are shaping the curriculum for our nation’s future workforce in engineering,” said Rob Fuller, a communications director at Lockheed Martin. “Our company leaders understand the national imperative in supporting STEM programs, and this unique approach provides us an opportunity to have a greater impact.”