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Secondary Teachers Get Schooled


While most students and teachers have been preparing for the beginning of the school year, several local teachers and guidance counselors have just completed the Summer Technology Institute hosted by Drake State Technical College. The two week summer program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation with a goal of teaching secondary school educators about the changing roles of technical education in today’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The curriculum of the Summer Technology Institute (STI) combines presentations and tours of the Drake State science and technology labs with visits to area industries.

“The counselors and teachers in our high schools play a vital role in the formation of our workforce. Their ability to demonstrate to students the need for science, technology, engineering and math skills is imperative for student success at the postsecondary level and in the workforce”, says Dr. Helen McAlpine, President of Drake State. “Through STI, we hope to bridge the gap between education and industry so collectively we can create a stronger workforce and community.”

Over the course of the two week program, the educators had the opportunity to experience working in the technical labs on Drake State’s campus. They participated in projects such as creating an antenna for wireless communications, using three-dimensional CAD software to design a building, learning how chemistry is used in cosmetology and the principles of electricity used to install electrical outlets, just to name a few.

“I applied to the Drake State Technology Institute in search of answers,” says Becky Chapman a math instructor from Sparkman High School. Her students like so many others always want to know “why do I have to learn this?” After participation in the program, Chapman indicated that she feels she is better prepared to answer that question.

Participants also heard from area community leaders such as Huntsville Mayor, Tommy Battle, renowned economist from the University of Alabama, Dr. Samuel Addy, graduates of Drake State working in STEM careers as well as current students.

“Hearing from the Drake State Instructors, area business and community leaders was enlightening,” says Chapman.

To make the connection from high school to post secondary to industry, the participants also toured area technology businesses where they learned how the skills taught in the programs at Drake State are utilized in the workplace.

“The school itself prepares people for life and enhances those already in the workforce,” shared Carlos Long a math instructor from Johnson High School. “It allows those that are going back to school or looking for a skilled profession to seek that out.”

Rachel McDaniel, of Oakwood Seventh Day Adventist Academy said,” They (instructors) understand whatever happens in the workplace is instituted in the classroom so when they (students) get out in the workforce, they do a really good job.”

Since its inception five years ago, over one hundred teachers have shared in the experience of the Summer Technology Institute.

According to Kathleen Outlaw, a biology instructor from Madison County High School,” The experience was phenomenal. They have something to offer every one of my students and I am proud to have been part of the program.”

The Summer Technology Institute is open to secondary school educators and counselors from the college’s service area. Applications for the 2010-2011 STI Program will be available in the spring of 2011. For more information, visit

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