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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Curriculum and Instruction Professor Michael Beeth believes STEM professionals (science, technology, engineering and math) bring unique knowledge and skills to the teaching profession that traditional undergraduate students do not have or have not had the time to develop.

Approaches and programs that encourage STEM professionals to transition into a second career in teaching was the focus of a Congressional Subcommittee on Research and Science Education hearing Nov. 3 in Washington D.C., during which Beeth, of the College of Education and Human Services, provided testimony.

“STEM professionals bring a level of analytical ability and human leadership skills that serve their schools and the teaching profession, a clear understanding of what it means to engage in doing math or science for a living and knowledge of the range of employment possibilities available to middle and high school students interested in a STEM field,” Beeth said.

Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL) echoed Beeth’s statement.

“Individuals who have spent time in a STEM profession bring a unique perspective to the classroom and can make a great contribution to STEM education efforts,” Brooks said. “At the same time, industry experience, knowledge and skills alone do not necessarily make a good teacher. Good teaching requires an additional and special set of knowledge and skills.”

Representatives from STEM programs at IBM, Abbott Vascular and the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation also testified at the hearing.

Established in 2006, the act! program provides STEM professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to become highly capable, licensed Wisconsin secondary (grades 6-12) math or science teachers. The program addresses a documented need for highly qualified math and science teachers in Wisconsin.  More than 100 STEM professionals have enrolled in the act! program since it started.

A multi-institutional partnership between UW Oshkosh and five two-year UW College campuses, the act! program enables its students to enroll in courses close to where they live and remain employed until the semester they start their student teaching experience.

Financial support is available to qualified individuals through two Robert Noyce National Science Foundation grants and individuals who qualify for the award, and agree to teach in a high-need school for two years, receive a stipend of $13,000.

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