Meaningful Professional Development through STEM Teacher Externships

Apply today to be a STEM Teacher Extern for Summer 2024

Since 2009 the STEM Teacher Externships Program has aimed to build bridges between Iowa’s workplaces and students by giving educators the opportunity during the summer to engage with real-world projects alongside knowledgeable and skilled professionals.For Summer 2024, there are 100 STEM Teacher Extern opportunities at 75 different workplaces across the state. Matching teachers and hosts is underway for another great summer. Educators have said that the STEM Teacher Externships Program is one of the most beneficial professional development opportunities they have experienced. 

Here is a reflection from 2023 Extern and Southeast Valley Science Teacher Aaron Leppert about his placement with Barilla:

The externship experience far surpassed my expectations. The program places teachers first and foremost, ensuring personal growth and educational connections remain the focal point. Previous professional development opportunities have felt like activities designed to check boxes; whereas, the externship program delivered the advertised product and encouraged meaningful interactions. 


The most memorable aspect of my externship lay in the curiosity my workplace environment allowed me to harness. I love learning - I chose education not only to inspire greatness in young students, but to continue developing myself as an academic. Working at Barilla placed me back into a student role. I needed to orient myself in the workplace, question anything I didn’t understand, and engage in difficult conversations outside my comfort zone. All opportunities stoked my curiosity and I found myself constantly asking, “How could I bring this back to the classroom?” or “How does this relate to the subject matter I teach?” Truly, a thought provoking summer.


Another aspect I found impactful existed in the mundane parts of the job. In the workplace, there is a lot more downtime than in education and this allowed me time to think and observe. I witnessed a positive work environment filled with coworkers willing to go above and beyond for their team. I saw the implementation of problem solving. If I say imagine a factory setting, you’ll most likely picture bent-backed, grizzled employees operating similar to the cogs of an oil-fed, smoke billowing mechanical behemoth; yet, the [employees] are all just humans working hard to bring pasta they’d be proud to serve their own families to the tables of strangers. This factory setting was filled with life and those gaps in productivity, we as educators often snuff and see as a distraction, make the job bearable and I daresay a delight. 


Ultimately, my experience was both great and positively memorable.


Please visit our website at: to learn more or to apply for Summer 2024.


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