The summer is coming. We often complain that students forget everything after a mere two months away from school. As teachers, once we’ve got our repertoire down and a few years under our belt, we tend to think of ourselves as masters of our craft. But we, too, have to keep up with the latest trends in both subject matter and pedagogy in order to stay on top of our game, which can dull somewhat over the summer break. But when trying to keep up the warp speed pace of STEM education, this break can leave you at a disadvantage come September. There is always fresh research coming out regarding how children learn, which needs to be integrated into our lessons. Plus, new resources or curriculum to try out, and new technology that can be utilized in the classroom. And, while our imagination often turns to cocktails on the patio, beach outings and novels poolside, the summertime may be the perfect time to gain more knowledge and sharpen our skills.

Many like to go for the one-day or two-day workshop. It doesn’t take up much time. They can get their credits and feel good about what they have gained. With a good speaker, and enjoyable and pertinent activities, you can feel inspired and walk away with something actionable. But studies have shown that group sessions, on-going mentorship and summer intensives are far more effective in developing pedagogical practices than one-day events. Why not invest a little time and effort this summer or make plans to do so next fall? Here are some ideas on professional development for STEM teachers:

If you are a new teacher, see if your school has any mentorship opportunities. For those who are really fired up, ask your mentor if he or she doesn’t mind meeting with you a few times over the summer. Seasoned professionals instead could decide to mentor a student teacher come September. No one learns their craft better than when teaching it to another. Plus, your mentee may have access to new resources of which you might not be aware. Next, check with your local university’s teacher education program. They may offer summertime and other professional development opportunities. Take a look at what they have and see if your district reimburses you for tuition and other costs. Ask if your school is a professional-development school. Here universities, school districts and teachers unions all work together to provide professional development opportunities. Ask your department head, vice principal or union rep. See if your district or state offers a teacher residency. The Boston Teacher Residency for instance is a four year program supported by a conglomerate of area philanthropies. Teachers can receive an $11,000 stipend and “a forgivable tuition loan.” For something less intense and more traditional, take a look at these summer conferences and institutes taking place all over the country.

Some teachers instead work best independently. If you like to work by yourself take a look at the STEM Education Resource Center. This site contains thousands of resources that can help you freshen up your unit plans and make next year your best yet. NASA offers self-directed, free online courses and certificate programs. These integrate technology while offering curriculum that give students hands-on learning experiences. Topics include: robotics, microgravity, astrobiology, global climate change (GCC) and more. They have modules to be used directly with students as well. You can select the ones that will reach your students while filtering out those that won’t. If you want expert help to say completely overhaul your classroom, gain access to specific, targeted curriculum or receive one-on-one STEM instructional support, contact The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES).

No one said building the world’s future scientists, mathematicians and engineers would be easy. Our economy, nation and most importantly our students depend on the STEM education teachers convey. The quality of that education is pivotal. That may seem like a lot of weight on an educator’s shoulders. Luckily, there are lots of resources out there providing all the support you need to succeed.

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Looking to gain some insight into how you can connect classroom to careers for your students? Take a look at STEM Jobs’ Classroom Series training modules and free videos!