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NEA steps up to expand program to train STEM teachers

Commits to raise $1.5 million for program to prep students for jobs of the future

WASHINGTON - October 02, 2012 -

President Obama has called for 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers to prepare students for the 2.7 million new jobs expected in those sectors by 2018. NEA is responding with a $500,000 challenge grant that calls on leading business and technology companies and philanthropists to join them in working to expand a successful New Jersey Education Association program that helps increase the number of certified science and math teachers. As a math teacher with more than 20 years of classroom experience, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel was pleased to make the call to action on a webcast with education leaders across the country.

“Today, NEA is pledging up to half a million dollars—and we’re committing to help raise at least $1 million more—to expand and replicate a successful New Jersey program that placed 60 new physics and chemistry teachers in New Jersey public schools classrooms last year alone,” said NEA President Van Roekel. Van Roekel said that previously, the state’s average was just 10 new physics teachers per year.


NEA’s goal is to raise $1.5 million to help fund efforts to take the model created in New Jersey’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Progressive Science Initiative and bring it to schools across the country. CTL cultivates teachers who are highly qualified and skilled educators to fill science and math teacher shortages. The program has added more than 130 new physics and chemistry teachers since it began in 2009. CTL’s Progressive Science Initiative (PSI) and Progressive Mathematics Initiative (PMI) uses free digital materials to support the teaching of more than 20 courses in math and science, which some 500 existing STEM-subject teachers have used to improve teaching and learning in New Jersey schools.


“We’re committed to preparing students to succeed in the worldwide economy, that’s why we’re working together to get additional qualified, caring, and committed math and science teachers into classrooms. Right now, there’s a severe shortage, especially in low-income communities, and that needs to change. But we cannot do it alone,” said Van Roekel.


PSI began at Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro, where nearly 20 times as many students took the AP Physics exam in 2010 than the state average. Since 2009, 85 schools in New Jersey have adopted the program. “There is a clear understanding that our nation’s prosperity is tied to innovation and that innovation will be spurred on by our ability to engage our students in STEM subjects and programs,” Van Roekel added.


New Jersey CTL Executive Director and former New Jersey Teacher of the Year (2006) Bob Goodman created PSI as a Bergen Tech physics teacher. “NEA recognizes that this program can be a model to improve science and math education across the country,” Goodman said. “This grant will help expand this successful program that develops teachers’ skills and creates student enthusiasm for jobs of the future,” he added.


Other states, such as Colorado and Rhode Island, are now adopting PSI and PMI in several high schools.


“We know this program works to help prepare students for 21st-century careers,” said Joyce Powell, member of NEA’s Executive Committee and chairperson of New Jersey CTL. “We’re anxious to have the opportunity to share what we’ve learned and help states replicate our accomplishments.”


“NEA will continue to lead efforts to improve teaching and learning and invest in programs that work. The New Jersey project is making a real difference in students’ lives, and it will help grow the state’s economy,” said Van Roekel. NEA has invested nearly $21 million in the 2012-2013 school year to improve public schools and create an education profession focused on quality and equity for students. Those resources have gone to programs such as NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, which uses collaborative strategies and innovations to help transform low-performing public schools throughout the country.


Learn more about this STEM program, and see other resources on STEM education, at


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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  202-822-7823,