What Arizona businesses can do NOW to support STEM education

March 16, 2010

By hammersmith

Editor’s Note: Below is background information about a program initiated in southern Arizona.  On Friday, March 26, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Science Foundation Arizona offices in downtown Phoenix, representatives from the Unversity of Arizona, Raytheon, and Southern Arizona Leadership Council will introduce the Teacher Industry Internship and Masters program to metro Phoenix businesses.

While the program started in Tucson, there are now teachers and a need to find internship spots in Maricopa County.  The lunch is an informational session to introduce Phoenix area employers to the program with the hope they will participate, perhaps as early as this summer.  If you/your business is interested in attending this lunch, contact Darcy Renfro, Vice President and Director of STEM Initiative, Science Foundation Arizona, at 602-682-2881 or drenfro@sfaz.org


The University of Arizona and Tucson Values Teachers (TVT) are collaborators on a unique internship program for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers in Arizona middle and high schools, focusing primarily on those in their first five years of teaching.  The primary goals of the program are to increase the retention of science and math teachers and to improve science and math teaching and learning.  Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) approved the three-year program, conditioned on matching funds from industry, with a clear mandate to create a model of success that could be used throughout the state.

Unlike any other program in the country, the internship is linked with a three-year Master’s Degree program that transforms the practical workforce experience into classroom curriculum, providing a critical bridge between education and businesses. The program creates a unique opportunity for business and teacher collaboration. Businesses benefit from the contributions of a high-quality, Master’s level K-12 teacher who will bring top-level STEM skills into the workplace. And, as part of the Master’s program, the teachers incorporate these first-hand business skills into curriculum and classroom teaching techniques. Importantly, the program emphasizes 21st Century Skills as a central part of the internship experience. Now in its second year, the program is expanding to reach all parts of the state.

The teachers selected for the program are simultaneously enrolled in a Master of Arts degree program at the University of Arizona. The SFAZ grant will cover the majority of the costs for coursework in the MA program. Teachers will be available four days per week on a full-time basis throughout the period of the internship. Businesses are asked to place teachers in a meaningful job experience for the teachers and pay industry wages.  (Fridays are reserved for university coursework). All teacher applicants will be initially screened by the University, then businesses will be provided with the resumes of a choice of candidates who will be interviewed and ultimately hired by the participating businesses.

Businesses who participated in the first year include Raytheon Missile Systems, BioVigilant, SEBRA, Texas Instruments, BeachFleischman, Sundt, SEBRA, The University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, Fort Huachuca and General Plasma. These companies are all continuing their involvement during year 2 of the program.  In addition, several more companies including Walgreens, Ventana Medical Systems, C-PATH and others are joining the collaboration for the 2nd year.

Internship Description:  In agreeing to participate in the industry internship program, businesses are agreeing to:

  • Provide an 8-10 week internship for a teacher that provides meaningful experience in the teacher’s area of expertise;
  • Provide first-hand experience of how STEM knowledge and skills translate to actual workforce practices and techniques;
  • Agree to NOT hire the intern on a full-time basis throughout the three-year duration of the internship program and until two years after the completion of the program;
  • Provide regular and productive mentoring and feedback to the teacher intern throughout the period of the internship;
  • Provide an evaluation of the intern’s performance and an assessment of the success of the internship to their business.

CONTACT: Dr. Julia Olsen jkolsen@u.arizona.edu or (520) 621-5682