Obama Calls for More Math, Science Teachers
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a national initiative to increase the number of mathematics and science teachers across the nation, and recognized more than 100 educators and mentors, including 56 NEA members, for their outstanding contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined the president and honorees at the White House for the announcement and awards ceremony.
“We welcome President Obama’s timely action to increase the mathematics and science teacher corps,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “There is a clear understanding that our nation’s prosperity is tied to innovation spurred on by our students’ engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
According to the White House, a substantial teacher shortage exists today in those fields. Overall, up to one million teachers will need to be recruited over the next five years, and vacancies in math and science are often among the hardest to fill.
“Our commitment to growing the STEM teacher corps is evident by the sheer number of our members receiving awards today,” said Van Roekel. Fifty-six of the 100 honorees are NEA K-12 and higher education members. A complete list of recipients and descriptions of their work can be found on WhiteHouse.gov, as well as blog entries from NEA members like sixth-grade teacher Barbara Stoflet from Minnetonka, Minnesota, who introduced the president at Wednesday’s event.
Van Roekel pointed to a partnership between NEA and the New Jersey Progressive Science Initiative, which is cultivating existing, highly qualified teachers to fill science and mathematics teacher shortages. The first phase of the program certified 33 new physics teachers, doubling the number of physics teachers the entire New Jersey university system produced last year.
“If America hopes to be technologically competitive in the future, our students must be able to solve complex math and science problems. NEA’s priority is to transform America’s schools and this initiative is a perfect example of how innovative approaches can strengthen our schools,” said Van Roekel. “By taking ownership of our own profession, through professional development, mentoring and training, we can help fill the STEM teacher shortage and lead the way by preparing students to think critically and succeed in the new industries of tomorrow.”
NEA is also a member of the STEM Education Coalition, a nationwide initiative to build local communities of support that will foster ongoing collaborations among volunteers, students and educators. NEA and coalition members will celebrate National Lab Day in May 2010 to help connect educators and scientists to improve the educational experience. In addition, NEA is a member of the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, a non-partisan organization that examines and supports the use of technology to improve education and training in America. And, in April, NEA will partner with Latino Magazine and others to host a one-day STEM conference to identify ways to increase Latino participation in STEM careers.