Kim Hayden of Hoosick Falls CSD spent her summer working on molecular genetics at the NYS Department of Health.

Summer 2017 marked the fourth year in which local teachers spent their summer placed in local businesses to engage in meaningful workplace learning experiences. The Questar III STEM Research Institute allows teachers to connect classroom learning with real-world applications while helping students understand how what they learn in the classroom applies in the real world.

This year, the Wadsworth Center, Centrotherm Ecosystems, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dumbstruck, Tech Valley Center of Gravity, Digifabshop, IBM and UAlbany’s School of Public Health all hosted at least one teacher, offering hands-on opportunities to engage in productive and memorable authentic learning opportunities.

The teachers spent four days a week for six weeks working on-site, collaborating with employees, researching various topics related to the work and learning how what they teach their students relates to actual workplace practice.

Digifabshop in Hudson hosted Rensselaer City School District Technology teacher Ed Bryden. They say by educating teachers on how their business works, they are laying the groundwork for students to be able to be successful in a career there.

“We understand a teachers’ job is to set their students up for success, and when someone comes in the door on their first day we really want them to know the basics. That’s what Ed was able to do was get familiar with those things that are specific to our business,” said Digifabshop Brand and Culture Strategist Anthony Huff.

Kris Navratil, Technology teacher at Maple Hill Middle School says this program is perfect for teachers.

“It keeps me up to date, it keeps me doing what I’m passionate about it and then the students benefit from it.”

Averill Park teacher Darlene Kehn Hunter works in a lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Averill Park High School Earth Science teacher Darlene Kehn Hunter says while the program has pushed her outside her comfort zone, it reflects why she became a teacher.

“I just love learning. It was my eighth year teaching and I just wanted a rejuvenation and that was really the driving force for me signing up for the program.”

Teachers spend the remaining day each week meeting with other teachers, collaborating on curriculum development based on their work and on presentations by guest speakers from STEM-related industries like IBM, Plug Power, CS Arch, Albany Medical Center and the Center for Internet Security. This combination helps teachers bring their experiences in the workplace back to their classroom – ultimately benefiting their students.

Tom Guile (Coxsackie-Athens CSD) worked with a design thinking group at IBM.

In addition to these businesses, programmatic financial support was provided by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the New York State Workforce Development Institute, the Center for Economic Growth, the Chief Executives Network and IBM.

Questar III would like to thank these businesses as well as The McCarthy Foundation for funding teachers’ participation in this program. Teachers participating in the program also receive $6,000 – a stipend of $5,000 and $1,000 to be used toward purchasing materials or equipment for their classrooms. This helps enhance student learning and outcomes by providing a classroom environment similar to the current professional environment in a given field.

Are you interested in learning more about how your business or institution can offer a meaningful learning experience to a teacher? Contact Jim Church at (518) 479-6953.