Education

From Theory to Practice: Summer Externships and Fellowships

By Craig Stone — April 01, 2004 2 min read
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Rather than putting their feet up for some R & R this summer, many teachers will pursue professional development opportunities. Increasingly, teachers are participating in summer “externships” and fellowships, programs specifically developed to bridge the gap between education and its real-world application.

The programs work much like internships: they take educators out of the classroom and place them into various jobs in industry. Participants bring back to their students a real-world understanding of the connection between academics and work.

Having a teacher who can illustrate that connection has “huge implications” for a student’s education, Keith Westrich, director of work-based learning programs at the Massachusetts Department of Education, told the “Boston Globe” in a recent article. Massachusetts runs the Leadership Initiative for Teaching and Technology, a teacher-externship program which aims to interest more high school graduates in science and technology. Westrich told the “Globe” that such programs are key to “how you change the culture of schools.”

Jennifer Bruckner, executive director of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education, describes her organization’s fellowship program as a “win-win” situation. Teachers get “revved up” at the chance to work in industry and develop new skills, she said in a recent interview with Career Coach, and “corporations get to have a direct and positive impact on the local education system.”

IISME’s fellowship program places teachers in high-performance work sites for the summer. The fellows earn a stipend of $6,400 over the course of eight weeks, working with such corporations as Lockheed Martin and Intel. The corporations are part of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, a trade organization of approximately 180 members which helps fund the fellowship program.

IISME, now in its 20th year of operation, accepts only in-state applicants, like most other fellowship and externship programs. Once applicants are accepted, employers get to choose teachers who look to be the best fit for their program and field of work. During their fellowship, IISME teachers develop an Education Transfer Plan, a curriculum-in-progress detailing ways to incorporate their work experience into their classroom teaching. IISME also provides peer coaches who assist fellows with their ETP.

Bruckner pointed to research showing that teachers who take part in IISME’s fellowship program tend to stay in teaching longer, noting that “teacher retention was an important factor in the conception of the fellowship program.” Participant feedback has been very positive, Bruckner said, with many teachers stating that the fellowship program was the best professional development exercise they’ve ever participated in.

Learn more about externship and fellowship opportunities from the resources below, or check with your district or state department of education.

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