STEM Teacher Externship Classroom Spotlight: Kathy McGrane, West Des Moines Valley High School

Kathy McGrane
Kathy McGrane and her AP Chemistry students at West Des Moines Valley investigate alloys.

West Des Moines Valley High School science teacher Kathy McGrane spent six weeks this summer as a STEM Teacher Extern with MidAmerican Energy. She was an Educational Consultant in the Trades and Crafts Training and Development Department and fostered a lasting relationship with MidAmerican team members and gained knowledge that she has taken back to her classroom this school year.

Over the summer Kathy had the opportunity to see science in action. “MidAmerican Energy demonstrates all of the energy concepts that we learn about in science classes but on the macroscale. I was able to see the production, transmission, conversion, and utilization of energy at every stage. We learn about combustion reactions in AP Chemistry but I was able to see a power plant generate energy from a huge combustion reaction and then transport that energy for miles.” She also learned about how amazingly well organized and efficient the energy industry is and gained a newfound appreciation for the level of expertise and safety that energy sector workers use everyday. ”I will never again take the availability of energy (electricity and gas) for granted.” 

Hajdi Zulic, Corporate Trainer with MidAmerican Energy has this to say about the experience, "Kathy was a valuable addition to our training and development department during her summer externship. She contributed to the creation of instructor and student guides for our gas apprenticeship program and reviewed an energy industry curriculum for high school students. She also maintained a strong relationship with our team by joining a power plant tour in September and by inviting one of our technical field trainers to demonstrate fire extinguisher use in her classroom. We enjoyed working with Kathy and the STEM Externship program immensely!"

Kathy's students know all about her summer experience as she has shown her pictures and videos of power plant tours, tools in use on gas lines, workers climbing into the nacelle of a wind turbine to name a few. She also has used many real world applications of the science they are learning, particularly about thermochemistry and alloys. Most recently they have been investigating the composition of alloys and made the connection as to why brass tools are used when working on gas pipelines.

Kathy has signed on to be a STEM Teacher Extern again for Summer 2024. She hopes to help high school and college interns make the connections between their classwork and real-life application. She encourages other secondary STEM teachers to consider participation in the program as well. “My externship gave me an opportunity to experience a different work environment and learn about the daily responsibilities of workers in a corporate setting as well as in the field. I could earn some supplementary income and learn at the same time! I think that is a win!” 

If you are a secondary teacher in a STEM related field and would like to participate in the STEM Teacher Externships Program this summer please visit to apply or learn more about the program.

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