This Is What Happens When STEM Educators Learn from Industry Experience

This Is What Happens When STEM Educators Learn from Industry Experience

Educators across the country strive to keep their skills current. Teachers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines are no different. In fact, many STEM educators attend annual national conferences to learn about the latest advances in teaching STEM disciplines.

For the past 10 years, some STEM educators have had the opportunity to advance their skills in a different way. The Teachers in Industry program, offered to secondary school STEM educators in Arizona, provides teachers the chance to learn from paid industry experience that they gain during summer breaks.

Here is more information about this exciting and innovative program:

Program History, Mission, and Goals

The Teachers in Industry program got its start in 2009. It began as a master’s degree program, an option that it still offers. Later, it began to offer a summertime professional development option as well. The program is a partnership between the University of Arizona’s College of Education and an organization called Tucson Values Teachers.

The Teachers in Industry mission statement emphasizes helping teachers understand industry practices in order to raise their students’ awareness of potential career opportunities. Another aspect of the program’s mission is to help develop innovations in teaching to inspire student enthusiasm for STEM learning. Finally, the mission statement places importance on educating students to be prepared for a global and digitally-intensive STEM workforce.


Overall, the program hopes to achieve five goals. These are to: 1) provide teachers with real-world industry experience, 2) improve retention of high-quality STEM teachers, 3) positively influence students’ impressions of STEM careers, 4) integrate real-world skills into STEM teaching, and 5) support teachers and schools in meeting national standards in STEM education.

In order to fulfill its mission and reach its goals, Teachers in Industry has relied on funding from Science Foundation Arizona, the Freeport McMoRan Foundation, and the Thomas R. Brown Foundation.

Program Details

The master’s degree program that started Teachers in Industry is still offered. It is a year-round program that leads to an MA in Teaching and Teacher Education within three years. Participants take courses during the fall and spring semesters and participate in a paid, industry-based fellowship during the summers.

The summertime professional development program is a newer development for Teachers in Industry. In this program, during the summer, participants take a graduate course as well as take part in a paid, industry-based fellowship. Participants are eligible for the program three times, and they can transfer their credits to the MA program if they wish.

In the summer program, participants work in industry placements four days per week and attend class one day per week. Lasting a total of eight weeks, the program offers the opportunity for participants to complete projects as part of their employment in a STEM-related company. Participants are paid $6,000-$9,000 for this work.

Although the program is based in Tucson, teachers from across Arizona are able to participate by attending class through computer-based distance learning and working in businesses in their local area. Tucson-based businesses that participated in the program in 2019 included Tucson Electric Power, Tucson Medical Center, and Raytheon, to name a few. Companies from other parts of the state that participated in 2019 included Arizona Public Service and the Salt River Project, among others.

Example Projects

Projects completed by participants in the Teachers in Industry program represent a variety of STEM fields. These fields include aerospace and defense, bioscience, construction, energy, engineering, health, manufacturing, and mining. Within each field, a wide variety of projects have been completed as well.


For example, in the aerospace and defense field, some areas of focus have been particle flow tracking, metrology, network diagramming, and radio frequency propagation. Meanwhile, in the bioscience field, some focus areas have been reagents, cell transformation, mathematical modeling, and clinical research protocols. In construction, focus areas have included budgeting, construction management processes, and unit costs analysis. In the energy sector, projects have focused on incident management plans, IT security, and quality control processes.

When it comes to engineering, some focus areas have been database design, reliability testing, and design review documentation. In the health field, areas of focus have included automated project management, DNA sample testing, environmental infection prevention, and performance improvement goal-setting. In manufacturing, projects have focused on failure analysis techniques, lean manufacturing, and inventory procedures. Finally, in mining, focus areas have included standard operating procedures, automated sampling, and population density studies.

Program Impacts

The Teachers in Industry program boasts that over 300 teachers have participated. They estimate that as a result, more than 50,000 students have been impacted by these participating teachers. Furthermore, research by the Teachers in Industry program reveals that over 90 percent of participants have continued in teaching for three years or more. This statistic exceeds both state and national averages.