Bill Clinton Reiterates Obama’s Commitment to Add 100,000 STEM Teachers...


Bill Clinton Reiterates Obama’s Commitment to Add 100,000 STEM Teachers to the Workforce

By Jenny Abamu     Apr 26, 2017

Bill Clinton Reiterates Obama’s Commitment to Add 100,000 STEM Teachers to the Workforce
Former President Bill Clinton Speaking at the 100Kin10 2017 Annual Partner Summit

Back in 2011 former President Barack Obama implored the nation to add 100,000 STEM teachers to the workforce. That call to action spurred the launch of 100Kin10, a nonprofit that has been working with more than 280 organizations nationwide to achieve that goal by 2021.

Six years and 40,000 teachers later, Bill Clinton made another call at the 100Kin10 Annual Summit in New York City for STEM leaders to keep up the momentum.

“Who would have ever thought that America would just make up its mind that we needed more STEM teachers? This will help keep America in the future business,” said the former President to 275 attendees. “Do not underestimate what you are doing here.”

Clinton can command a six-figure payment for speeches. But the opportunity to address an issue important to his heart—the need to reach students in rural and impoverished communities—was perhaps a factor in his decision to give this speech gratis, according to event organizers.

“We have to empower people to make the best possible decisions to serve their families and communities, and not to do something really dumb that will derail our progress like let climate change spin out of control. But it begins with teachers,” explained Clinton.

The former CIA agents, NASA astronauts, journalists, scientist, technologists and educators in the crowd seemed determined to find solutions to the barriers they faced recruiting STEM teachers in their respective fields during the conference. Each session focused on collaborative discussions around issues the educational leaders raised such as working with limited resources and training new recruits. No vendor booths were present; rather, the “unconference” focused on expanding STEM through promoting innovation within existing organizations.

“The whole idea of what we are doing is to flip the script on what conferences are supposed to be. So often when you come to conferences you are a faceless cog walking through the experience,” says Talia Milgrom-Elcott, executive director and co-founder of the 100Kin10, in an interview with EdSurge. “There is often more expertise sitting in the audience than what is on stage and you never hear it. This is not a place to pitch; it is a place to be learning.”

Milgrom-Elcott stressed her desire to make 100Kin10’s yearly summits into collaborative learning sessions for the attendees. The organization also emphasizes this mission by distributing Collaboration Grants of up to $3,000 for individuals in the STEM field to work with together on ideas and projects across the nation.

“If I meet you here, and I see that you are running an amazing program that I want to learn about, in two weeks time 100Kin10 will get me funds to fly out and come see your program,” explains Milgrom-Elcott.

Collaboration in Action

One topic that many attendees wanted to discuss was expanding STEM education into rural and underserved communities by training teachers in those areas.

'Steal This' Session at 100Kin10 Summit. Photo Credit: Jenny Abamu

“It scares teachers and parents in rural communities when we train students for STEM careers, they think the student will leave for jobs in the city. But you can work from anywhere with a technological background,” says Dr. Carol Fletcher, Deputy Director for the Center for STEM Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Fletcher has been running programs to train future STEM teachers throughout the state, with a goal to reach rural communities.

Tara Wright, the professional development manager for PBS’ new Sesame Street in Communities project, took careful notes as she strategized ways to get the free resources released by the network last November into the hands of parents and educators in underserved regions.

“Start with a network that already exists and tap into it, like churches,” suggests Fletcher in response to a question from Wright.

In another session, Tom Christensen, a physics and education professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, shared ideas he learned from implementing a new Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Education degree program this year. There are only six students in the program this year, but he believes that once the program begins to actively recruit students it will grow.

“We are looking for someone who has a level of engineering skill, but is also interested in teaching,” explains Christensen.

Most of the content for the degree was developed by professors in the engineering department, and it is housed in the engineering school, something that Christensen says might have to change in the future. “It is not an engineering degree, so we want to make sure the students understand what they are getting into. When they come out of our program they will not be engineers, they will be fantastic teachers,” he explains. “We try to make it very clear. We have been talking about possibly co-locating it so that the college of engineering in collaboration with the college of education offer it jointly.”

He also hopes to include engineering courses into other education degree programs. “Anyone who is going to be teaching science and math ought to have some background in engineering," he explained.

Working through these types of problems is something Milgrom-Elcott fully supports. Not every approach and strategy will roll out smoothly, she recognizes. Yet Milgrom-Elcott encouraged attendees to not shy away from making mistakes and taking risks in order to spread STEM education. “Without opportunities to fail, how do we challenge ourselves to do authentic STEM?”


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