Teachers Enhance Their STEM Skills During Summer Externships

Man standing in front of rocket

Monte Chapman from West Boca Community High School, was an extern at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Amazing, authentic, and enlightening were some of the words used by teachers to describe their experiences during the School District of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County STEM Education Council’s Externship Program.

Ten teachers took part in the month-long paid summer externships, acquiring experience in STEM fields that they can take back to their classrooms to help prepare their students for college and/or the workforce.

Modeled after a similar effort in Iowa, the extern program is an innovative idea from the STEM Education Council which is comprised of local businesses, representatives from local colleges and universities, as well as community members and District employees.

The externship is designed to give high school teachers practical, hands-on knowledge in their field of study. Now in its third year, the program hopes to expand to more businesses in 2018.

“Students are always asking me, when are they ever going to use this or that concept, fact or formula in their life,” said Christine Palulis, a teacher at Park Vista High School. “Working with the scientific staff at Loggerhead Marinelife Center gave me some valuable real-world examples to share with my students.”

Woman in a lab

Margarette Marturano from Seminole Ridge High School, worked at Florida Crystals.

“Teachers don’t necessarily change what they teach, but how they teach,” said Julia Mate, the District’s STEM Coordinator. “They get to realize the importance of skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and communication in today’s workforce.”

Teacher externs in the program are paid by the host companies or institutions. They get to assist with day-to-day operations while providing a unique perspective that benefits the company and ultimately their students when they return to the classroom for the new school year.

“I’m excited to bring back to the classroom the skills and focus that my students will need to succeed in a modern STEM workplace,” said Palm Beach Central High School teacher David Baston. “After working at FPL, I’ve gained a fresh and valuable perspective on what our kids really need in order to thrive after graduation.”

Special thanks to the following companies who employed the teachers during the 2017 STEM Externship Program:

Aerojet Rocketdyne
• Monte Chapman – West Boca Raton Community High

Florida Crystals
• Claudia Jimenez – Royal Palm Beach High
• Margarette Marturano – Seminole Ridge High

Lockheed Martin
• Gregory Shatskin – Wellington High

Loggerhead Marinelife Center
• Christine Palulis – Park Vista High

NextEra Energy Resources
• David Baston – Palm Beach Central High
• Michelle Davis – Boynton Beach High

Scripps Research Institute
• Brett Stubbs – Suncoast High

South Florida Science Center and Aquarium
• Amanda Longo – John I. Leonard High

Wellington Regional Medical Center
• Brunilda Vera – Park Vista High

Visit the STEM Externship Program Website for more information. To learn more about the K-12 STEM District programs, contact Julia Mate at julia.mate@palmbeachschools.org.