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Alan Mather, receiving a Golden Apple from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is working to expand STEM teaching. 0

CPS teams up with business to train teachers

December 13th, 2016

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Chicago Public Schools is partnering with the business community to beef up its teaching ranks in science, technology, engineering and math–you know it as STEM.

The partnership will have companies pay for soon-to-be retiring employees to earn teaching certificates and share their work experiences with young people, especially in undeserved communities.

Baxter International has already signed up.

“Health sciences is our expertise. Combine that with our goal of fostering tomorrow’s innovation, and it’s a nice cross section. It’s our sweet spot,” says Alice Campbell, Baxter’s senior director of Global Community Relations. “We hope other companies with STEM expertise join us.”
The company was introduced to the idea by Alan Mather, who heads CPS’s Office of College & Career Success. He worked with Baxter when he was principal at Lindblom Math & Science Academy, where he was honored with a Golden Apple award.

“We’re excited. We’re looking in areas of high need and we’re looking for people who can help students learn to apply what their learning in class to the real world,” Mather told me.

CPS says as far as it knows, it’s the first formal partnership between a big-city school district and the business community to get professionals into the classroom. Officials hope the initiative–called BEST (Bringing Experts to STEM Teaching)–will create a new pipeline of skilled teachers.

The idea came about more than a year ago when Mather was in New York. It was a personal trip but he made time to stop and visit with IBM to hear how it pays employees to go back to school  to become teachers.

“I thought it sounded like something we could try,” Mather said.

University of Illinois-Chicago and National Louis University are also part of the effort.

How it works: A company will contribute $15,000 for employees nearing retirement or preparing for a career change to earn their teaching certificate.

They’ll then move into the classroom, where they can talk from personal experience about how these technical subjects are used in the real world.

CPS will provide early offers to employees who go through the program as well as professional support to help them transition from corporate to education life.

This isn’t the first collaboration between CPS and the business community. Numerous Chicago companies encourage employees to volunteer in the schools. Nonprofits focused on education also help companies find school partners. And CPS’s Early College STEM School program also teams companies and school.  Cisco Systems, for example, teamed with Austin High School to build a STEM lab.

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