Need STEM Teachers? Recruit Retired and Former STEM Professionals

STEM is ever-present in all parts of daily life in the modern world.  STEM jobs are more in demand every day and expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. However, STEM education in the U.S. has a long way to go. It’s become a well-known fact that most high school students are woefully unprepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (otherwise known as STEM). Students in the United States regularly score low on math and science tests, lagging behind the scores of students in other developed nations.

Why is this happening?

STEM education in most K-12 schools around the U.S. is abysmal. At the core of this problem is the fact that there are not enough quality STEM teachers to go around. Why? Because STEM careers are in high demand, and college graduates with degrees in and a high aptitude for STEM can make hundreds of thousands of dollars working in private industry. If they decided to become a teacher, they would be lucky to start out at a salary of forty thousand dollars. The overwhelming majority of them decide on the private sector, as it will allow them to live a comfortable upper-middle-class existence.

Because of this, schools often find themselves scrambling to find qualified STEM education teachers to fill their classrooms. Some even end up filling these positions with long-term substitutes or teachers with emergency licenses. At the end of the day, students lose, as they are deprived of a quality STEM education. Of those that end up in college, many are not ready for the rigors of STEM courses at the higher education level and end up taking remedial courses to help them get back on track. If this epidemic does not end, we will have a workforce that lacks the STEM skills to lead our country in the global economy.

One possible solution

I have an idea for ending this crisis. What if we recruited retired STEM professionals to the teaching profession? If they started their careers after college, many would likely still be in their forties, and still vibrant, ready for a new challenge. Maybe they always wanted to become a teacher, but financially they couldn’t consider it as a viable career. Or maybe at this stage of their lives, they are looking to give back.

Districts could create a “Teach for America” type program to help retired or former STEM professionals get prepared for the rigors of the classroom and obtain licensure. Who better to teach students about STEM fields, than people that spent 1/3 of their lives working in one? It could be a match made in heaven. This is just a suggestion and would need to be fleshed out, but I think that it could pay dividends and help us with the STEM teacher shortage that we are experiencing in the United States.

What do you think? Do you think that this idea could work? Why or why not?

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