OSTP Director John P. Holdren last week met at the White House Conference Center with more than 50 teachers being honored by the Siemen’s Foundation for their dedication to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The teachers had been selected from more than 700 applicants nationwide as fellows in the Siemens STEM Institute, a one-of-a-kind immersion program that brings together the most promising STEM teachers from every state to learn from each other and become even stronger advocates for STEM in their communities.
Dr. Holdren—along with Carl Wieman, President Obama’s nominee to be OSTP’s Associate Director for Science—talked with the teachers about the President’s strong commitment to STEM education and reviewed some of the Administration’s efforts in this arena, including Federal programs such as Race to the Top; public-private partnerships such as Educate to Innovate; and independent initiatives such as National Lab Day.
Dr. Holdren commended the teachers for their commitment to the excitement of discovery, the actual fun of science, and the thrill of helping young minds open to the beauty of the scientific perspective. Virtually everyone can recall the name of at least one teacher who made a big and lasting difference in their lives, Dr. Holdren noted, adding that teachers can leave lasting impressions and inspire students to pursue lifetimes of inquiry. A teacher who makes a student realize “So THAT’s how that works!” can have an incredible impact on that student’s future, and on the world, he said.
Earlier last week Dr. Holdren attended another STEM-related event—this one hosted by astronaut Sally Ride and honoring Linda Rosen, executive director of “Change the Equation,” an organization that is helping to connect the Administration with corporate partners committed to STEM education. He highlighted the importance of having scientists and engineers from local and national companies coming into classrooms to serve as mentors—to do more hands-on science in labs and field trips and to sponsor robotics competitions, science fairs, and other events that can inspire the next generation of doers and makers.
President Obama’s speech in Austin yesterday reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to education generally and his speech the previous week at the National Urban League in Washington reiterated his commitment to STEM education in particular. The President has repeatedly noted that many of the problems the world faces today—in health care, in energy and environment, in national security—can be solved only with rational assessments of the facts at hand, and that good teachers can help that process by encouraging today’s students to engage in evidence-based, scientific thinking.
Erin Szulman is a student volunteer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy