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A Worthy Challenge and a Big Impact: The STEMpath Externship Journey

by Rose Gaylen

The second semester of STEMpath is ending, and the educators in this cohort have been working tirelessly to complete their coursework, externships, and to put together final projects and presentations. They have applied what they learned in their coursework to their externships and have been solving relevant, real-world problems with international companies spread out over multiple time zones. This incredible experience has allowed them to contribute to their externship teams in a meaningful way, and to bring back valuable classroom connections for students.  

“The biggest reason that I would like to enroll in STEMpath is the externship. I don’t have industry experience...I would like to connect to a professional work environment in order to see studio approaches and project management techniques in practice. The multi-week externship provides a chance to do that while developing a professional network that can [provide] long term guidance to my program and students.”  

--Sean Wybrant, 2022 STEMpath Participant 


STEMpath upskills educators in Computer Science (CS) and STEM, aiming to increase the number of educators in these areas. Combining industry-driven coursework, and work-based learning through externships, this 1-year 24-credit graduate level CS certification program fills vital CS teaching positions with confident, qualified educators. Educators from all over the US participate in STEMpath; they teach in elementary, middle and high schools, in rural and metropolitan areas, and in schools with students who are traditionally and woefully underserved. These educators come from diverse backgrounds and recognize the importance of giving access to a quality CS and STEM education to all students. In order to do that, the number of qualified educators must also increase and be more diverse. 


At the beginning of this year’s program, we sat down with these educators and asked them some important questions such as what their teaching superpowers are, what they think STEMpath will do for their students, and why they are excited to be a part of this transformative program. Deb Jackson, an educator in Pueblo, CO, speaks about how important an opportunity STEM and Computer Science is for her students. She teaches in a former manufacturing town and sees the limited options her students have for employment after their schooling and speaks of an important lesson that she got from her grandparents: education is the most important thing—because it is the one thing nobody can take from you. Through STEMpath Deb hopes to upskill herself, and in doing so, offer her students a technicolor view of what is possible for them in the future. 


Deb is not alone in this. The educators in this cohort speak about how important it is to offer access to a high-quality STEM and CS education to all students, to increase the number of teachers qualified in these subjects, and to build partnerships with industries and the community to strengthen STEM and CS classes/programs in their systems. They began STEMpath with an Information Science course, and their projects explored issues such as how to expand access to CS in schools for all students - how to impart the value of STEM and CTE in school leadership and students, making it a requirement instead of an elective, and emphasize the importance of consistent learning and exposure to CS and STEM for students.  


"I believe STEMpath will have an impact on how we develop future career and technical education programs and pathways... thinking about how we upskill teachers while ensuring equitable opportunities and curriculum that anyone can access." 

- Traci Sanchez, 2022 STEMpath participant 


The 2022 STEMpath cohort has had the opportunity to work with companies such as Sphero, TTEC, Unity, and Kebloom. The cross-contribution that happens because of these externships means that educators can prepare students, and industries in turn can take an active role in developing their future workforce. Their final projects included user experience interviews to solve customer problems and make real time improvements, learning different coding languages to help make the customer experience smoother and internal processes more efficient, and in some cases applying their knowledge to help bridge the gap between industry and education by speaking as an ambassador at higher education institutions, and doing presentations at industry conferences around the country.  


Recently, MindSpark hosted a webinar with Sean Wybrant, 2022 STEMpath cohort participant, and Unity’s Thomas Winkley, Technical Marketing Advocate of Social Impact and Education. They shared their externship experience, why industry and education partnerships are so important, and how invaluable these mutually beneficial experiences are. 


View the recording. 

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