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The AZ Teachers Professional Development Pilot Program

Mike Vargas Uncategorized

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Attention all STEM teachers, do we have news for you!! With all the doom and gloom this past legislative session there is one piece of legislation that is going to make a difference in Arizona and that is our bill SB-1038, which passed last week at the state capitol.

So, what does this bill do exactly?? So here is the main idea:

We knew we would never win over legislators to give STEM teachers, or any other teachers for that matter, any kind of pay incentive to teach the subject areas in high schools that we desperately need. So, we asked legislators what would they be willing to do to help with this very dire problem. The solution after months of negotiating and brainstorming was this bill “The teacher’s professional development pilot program” which was introduced by Senator Sylvia Allen and Rep Paul Boyer.

Under this program, a teacher who is currently already teaching who wants to get training for a subject matter higher in scope then what they are currently teaching can apply for a one time two thousand dollar grant that can be used for graduate school credits anywhere in the state of Arizona. The idea is to incentivize teachers to get training and certification in hard to fill, high needs, subject areas such as physics and chemistry.

Currently we only have about 159 physics teachers left in the state and only around 680 chemistry teachers for our high school population of 350K students. In order to gain new folks to our disciplines we are trying to recruit from within our departments, schools, and districts to get folks to step up to the plate and take on these classes that are disappearing state wide at a disparaging rate.
So, for example, if you teach earth science and wanted to get a chemistry certificate, you could apply for this grant to take the classes necessary to pass the chemistry exam, and as long as you teach in the state of Arizona for an additional 3 years then you don’t have to pay anything back.

Our end goal will be to show growth in certifications in these disciplines in the next 2 years. With that data, it is our hope that we will be able to bring strong evidence back to the legislature to fund such initiatives even further so that we can begin rebuilding our STEM teacher base here in Arizona. In order to provide a mathematically adept workforce for our economy, we need opportunities for kids to take higher level science and math. Research proves that classes such as physics are the chief STEM gateway classes that steer kids to careers into STEM fields.

The program will hopefully launch in the next 3 months and be run through the Arizona Department of Education. The funding is limited, however teachers expressing an interest in high need content STEM disciplines will be first in line to receive funding when the program goes live.

So if you know of anyone who is looking to be a high school science teacher, we would encourage you to look into this program in the next months to follow. Arizona needs quality educators in STEM fields and we need them yesterday.

 

 

Michael Vargas

Phoenix, Arizona

My name is Mike Vargas. I am a proud recipient of the 2014 ASTA Arizona HS Science Teacher of the Year award and I am a 2016 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence. I received my undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University where I was Vice – President of the Associated Students, a recipient of the Gold Axe, and President’s Prize awards. I also hold graduate degrees and certificates from Trident University International and the University of San Diego. I have served as the boy’s head basketball coach and physics teacher at Supreme Headquarter Allied Powers Europe in Mons Belgium from 2001 to 2012. During this time period, I lead our track and basketball teams to multiple European Championships.
Working at NATO’s Headquarters allowed me the opportunity to work with several national military representatives including multiple years teaching science to Norwegian and Canadian sections as well as the American HS and middle school sections. I have taught several subjects including Physics, Physics Applications, Astronomy, Earth and Space Science, 8th grade Canadian Science and World History. I am a member of STEM Teachers Phoenix and I work closely with the Arizona State University Physics Instructional Modeling Program. I am an advocate for physics first instruction and I am leading a movement to double the current number of physics teachers in Arizona in the next 5 years.

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