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Education empowers opportunity

Educators need to embrace STEM, AP and professional learning to help students succeed

NMSI’s mantra is that education empowers opportunity. How have you experienced that?

During speeches, I say, “As I stand before you, I stand as a physician, as an astronaut and as a businessman. All of that was empowered by education.” When I was 13, I saw Neil and Buzz land on the moon. It became my dream to follow in their footsteps. So I became a pre-med student and did a Mayo Clinic residency in internal medicine. This became the foundation to support my fellowship at NASA studying space medicine. In 1990, I joined the astronaut corps, wherein I spent 10 years at NASA and flew two missions. I utilized this to become a business investor in telemedicine.

How does STEM education fit into this construct?

It is NMSI’s staple. In this day and age, if you are not educated in at least basic STEM skills, you will have a much more difficult time finding a well-paying job. If you look at companies like Google and Twitter, they are based in tech. In order to ensure this nation’s future, we must properly prepare our children for a future in which technology is the foundation of the economy.

Why is accessibility to AP so crucial?

College presidents will say that a big issue in higher ed is that many incoming students are not prepared. This speaks to how we are educating high school students. AP and college-prep courses prepare them for the rigor of college. Additionally, we used to measure college graduation rates in four years. These days it’s six. It’s not only that colleges have gotten harder, but our children are underprepared.

What roles do teachers play in empowering opportunity for students?

They are the linchpin. Students respond to educators who know their subjects well. Think back to when you were in high school and the courses you loved most. You probably loved them because the teacher was engaging and knew enough about the subject to make it interesting. Teachers who have adequate experience and knowledge in the field in which they teach will do a much better job. Teachers must also help students understand why they’re learning what they’re learning by relating it to the real world. That’s our mission: To help schools raise the level of education.  

How does NMSI help teachers improve instruction and achievement?

There are three primary programs. The first is our AP initiative—the College Readiness Program. We go to high schools and teach educators how to deliver AP to students. The second is  Laying the Foundation, where we provide hands-on professional development for teachers in grades 3 through 12. Lastly, UTeach exposes college students majoring in STEM subjects to career opportunities in education.

Visit nms.org/OurApproach to learn more about how NMSI can help to improve students’ opportunities and achievement through STEM teaching and learning in your district.