For former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, it was her high school science teacher, Dr. Mommaerts.
In an op-ed featured this week on Mashable.com, Ride celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week by talking about Dr. Mommaerts’ efforts to not only teach her about science, but to give her the confidence to believe she could do anything – including becoming the first American woman to travel in space.
It’s that all-important combination of competence and confidence that teachers must possess in order to pass it along to their students. And as Dr. Ride mentions in her op-ed, those are the skills we want to help teachers further develop at the Sally Ride Science Academy, a key element in ExxonMobil’s commitment to math and science education in the U.S.
The academy trains U.S. math and science teachers, specialists, and administrators in approaches that help increase student interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Participants come from elementary and middle schools, where educators have the best chance to inspire students. Research has shown that students tend to disengage in these subjects by the time they enter high school. This is especially true for girls, which is why the academy focuses on breaking down stereotypes about who is “good at” math and science.
ExxonMobil partnered with Dr. Ride to begin the academy in 2009, and since then we have trained more than 650 educators spanning 17 states and the District of Columbia. This is a meaningful accomplishment, but there’s more to be done. Eight of the 10 occupations projected to grow fastest through 2018 will require strong science and technical skills, yet fewer U.S. students are following the path to these careers. For an engineering company like ExxonMobil, this is cause for concern. And it should be of special concern to the future of the world’s largest and most dynamic economy.
From my many conversations with Sally, I know she feels that in today’s economy, technology is ubiquitous and education is currency.
That’s why when the more than 250 educators who attend this summer’s academy return home, their work won’t be over. They will have been trained to pass on to their colleagues what they have learned at the academy, so that they too can increase student interest in science and math. Since 2009, this teach-the-teacher program has resulted in another 5,400 educators being trained with materials from the academy.
When teachers can inspire, motivate and relate, our students and our country will be better for it.
ExxonMobil supports teachers all year long through training programs that help them help their students — through organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association, National Math and Science Initiative and the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. You can learn more about these programs at exxonmobil.com/letssolvethis. And, in celebration of National Teacher Appreciation week, ExxonMobil employees are thanking the teachers who inspired them – you can watch those videos at our YouTube channel.
I encourage you to read Dr. Ride’s op-ed to learn more about the importance of teachers to our nation’s future.
“My hope is that each of the teachers trained at the academy will create that spark in other children, helping them to dream big and then have the courage and conviction to follow those dreams,” she concluded.