Iowa STEM Blog

Wednesday, July 7, 2022

By: Stephen Emrich, Mathematics Teacher at Louisa-Muscatine High School. Steve Emrich participated in a STEM Teacher Externship at HNI in Muscatine. He worked in the Corporate Accounting department. His main job was to review customer account sales volume, marketing agreements, and invoices. He took information from these reports and created excel spreadsheets that put this information into a usable format for HNI reporting. Steve learned many new things about accounting and how math is used in today's business world. He was introduced to several new mathematical applications that he can take back to his classroom and give his students real workplace applications for what they are learning.


I use math all day every day since I work on an accounting team. I use Iowa Core and Math standard math all day long. I am constantly reviewing numbers and calculations and appropriating costs and invoices to the correct departments and categories. I am writing my own equations to calculate depreciation and accrued interest on assets and liabilities. I enjoy applying my base mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills to solve problems. This position is going to give me a lot of experience working within a team and fine tuning my own 21st century skills. You never know what you will be doing in the future, so you need to build a skillset that allows you to be flexible and grow with the situation you are in. Learning never ends.

I think we have to teach the standards so the students have that basic level of understanding, but if we can add the skills needed in the workplace and give the students a chance to apply those skills, their learning will be much more authentic. 

Being able to use math in a real-world setting has reenergized me as to the importance of my students developing a strong math skillset. Nobody knows what they will be doing in ten years, let alone a lifetime of working, but if they improve their knowledge of mathematical fundamentals and develop their problem-solving ability, it will always serve them well in wherever they end up. I plan to take this back to my classroom and create more collaborative projects for my students so they can develop those skills. 


By: Tonya Brewer, Elementary Teacher at Hawthorne Elementary. Tonya participated as an extern this summer, hosted by Climax Molybdenum and the Lee County Conservation department. Her main job was to hike 30+ trails, over 40 miles in Lee County and load those to an ALL TRAILS app. She uploaded photos of the area and included tips for navigation and the length of the trail. This will be very beneficial in conservation education as some trails cover a specific lesson that the outdoor educational specialist teaches. Knowing the length of the trail helps with time management. Many of these trails are visited by neighboring schools with students seeking adventure and testing their science skills. Tonya, also plans on using the ALL TRAILS app with her students and parents.


What can I do to help my third graders be ready in the workplace? Create a learning environment where students lead the learning. Help them become self-learners. Use KWL charts (What do you Know, What do you want to know, What have you learned). Create a classroom where students feel free to share opinions. Find opportunities to allow students to form pairs and small groups. It helps with speaking and listening and how to effectively achieve goals together. Ask deeper level questions that build critical thinking skills along with the language. Encourage creativity by expressing what they have learned in a new way. 

I've listened and or watched all of the 21st Century skills come into play. I've learned they are all crucial with the balance of the workplace. Values are changing within the work place and young people. Climax wants highly motivated people who can contribute to and share in their success. 21st skills needed in this workplace include thinking outside the box, finding innovative ways to resolve potential problems.

We are working in an era of change. Our economy is increasingly global and the jobs our children will compete for all rapidly changing or not yet imagined. I believe the balance starting point is for teachers to work on a curriculum that emphasizes the construction of knowledge and is rooted in the core subjects. We understand that our roles extend beyond academics to include things like reinforcing good citizenship, building resilience and developing social skills. Teaching 21st century skills is imperative to help understand themselves, each other, and learn how to think creatively and critically no matter what field of study or work they plan to pursue. I feel like you can't have one thing without the other for balance and integrate real world skills into the curriculum early and make school to life connections.

This experience will allow me to make connections about all the many job opportunities around here. During my extern, I have learned something new every day. Everything I've done in this experience, I can use to help my students make that connection to the real world and how it is relevant beyond the classroom. I also know that this experience has made me be a better teacher.


By: Greg Moklestad, Computer Science and Industrial Technology Teacher at Dubuque High School. Greg participated in a STEM Teacher Externships at Design Mill LLC. He worked on multiple projects that utilize advanced LIDAR technologies to create digital environments. These digital environments will then be augmented to meet customer needs. Through this experience, he has learned many new applications for technology and computer science that will be carried out in the classroom.


Every time I start a new position like this, I am always taken aback by how much someone must learn during their first days on the job. From an educator’s perspective, this can be a healthy reminder of why we prepare our kids with the knowledge we give them and what they must feel like on their first days in the classroom.

I am having to learn a lot of new technology on the fly in order to do my job. This is something I often convey to my students in their classes. The constant change and evolution of technology requires someone in these STEM fields to be a true lifelong learner. Teaching students to systematically break down technology and apply that system to learning new tech in the future.

My classroom has changed dramatically after my first externship. I partnered with John Deere for my engineering 2 class to have students working on actual John Deere projects as a group with a mentor engineer that they report to. This helped my students see the real world example of accountability for your time and professional input. My lectures became even more dynamic after being able to add my experience at John Deere. When my students hear about my experiences they become more comfortable asking me questions in regards to the career at hand. Also, there is a lot more buy-in when I drop some real-world experience to the lesson and/or project. My experience allowed me to talk to many engineers. This has helped me talk to students about their post-secondary options more effectively.

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