STEM action conference shows support for education

by Becky GINOS LAYTON—Although summer is here, teachers and administrators are still working hard to hone their skills in preparation for the coming school year. Last week, the Utah STEM Action Center hosted its annual STEM Best Practices event to highlight successful learning practices for K-12 schools in Utah. The conference was held at the Davis Conference Center and included several breakout sessions with a panel discussion moderated by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. “Our company lives and dies by the ability to solve problems,” said panelist Eric Pope, V.P. Operations, US Synthetic. “For us we’re trying to do everything we can to promote good problem solving skills. We see STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as a great pathway to create problem solving.” Pope said he was there to represent industry. “We want educators to be familiar with us. Everybody in this room is working hard with such care and compassion to build children up for the future.” Time, money and bureaucracy limit teachers, he said. “As a business we want to provide some relief to that by partnering with them to do some good. It’s not just an education problem – it’s a community problem. We have the time, money and resources to find ways to build education. Building the workforce builds the future. We have a responsibility to help.” Davis School District Superintendent Reid Newey was also a panelist. “The STEM Center has been phenomenal for the district,” he said. “The work they’ve been doing to promote education in general, but also focusing on STEM has been such a benefit for teachers, students and ultimately families. We’ve been able to tap into the resources that are available through the center.” The center has great leadership, he continued. “They have a genuine interest in getting resources to classrooms and help with funding, training and connections to industry. The financial contributions from industry to schools” has helped tremendously. The STEM Action Center works to develop Utah’s workforce of the future by prioritizing STEM education, according to materials provided. “From the very beginning of the center we knew we wanted to organize an event like this for teachers,” said Executive Director Dr. Tamara Goetz. “We’re always looking for promising, best practices for STEM education and workforce alignment opportunities. The idea of the conference is to showcase teachers as the innovators. That’s what they do all the time in the classroom – innovate.” This event brings educators together to come up with new ideas, said Goetz. “We just want them to walk away inspired and feel like they have the support from the community they deserve.” The Lt. Governor is aware of the need for us to commit time and resources to support computer science for children, she said. “There is a shortage of talent in technology based needs in Utah and the work we’re doing needs to support rural education. Our core pillar is access, not just for girls or Latinos it’s rural too,” said Goetz. “They don’t always have the resources others do. The Lt. Governor is from Fairview so he’s very aware of the issues rural communities face.” Goetz said industry involvement is invaluable. “Teachers recognize industry partners support them through instruction and work based learning. It’s not just an opportunity for students but for teachers,” she said. “I’ve never seen industry involvement at this level. It demonstrates that companies are behind our educators.”


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