Producing and Inspiring More Teachers in STEM

By Chuck Fidler

There is no question that our society is increasingly reliant on advances in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The advancements in medicine, energy efficiency, construction, agriculture, transportation, and communications, among others have greatly impacted the America we live in today.   What has made all of these advancements possible?  And how do we, as a nation, continue to advance, to spur on innovation? Well, if you think about it, it really all begins with our nation’s teachers.

Chuck Fidler bio resized 600 The Washington Post article, Obama proposes $1B for science, math teachers by Josh Lederman (July 18, 2012) outlines President Obama’s plan to implement a campaign for additional funding for high performing mathematics and science  teachers. President Obama is hoping for a trickle-down effect by giving a financial stimulus—specifically a $20,000 annual bonus— to “master” teachers who excel at teaching mathematics and science. These master teachers, who sign on for a number of years, will then help other teachers in their schools teach mathematics and science effectively.

This campaign is partly in response to many national and international reports which demonstrates that the United States is losing its competitive advantage in the fields of mathematics and science to other countries around the world; specifically Asian and European countries (see TIMSS 2007 and NAP 2007 ). I am cautiously optimistic about the appropriation of such a large fund and hope this money is carefully distributed. But mostly, I am relieved to finally see legislation in support for our math and science teachers that is not directly related to high stakes testing.  It is no secret that teachers often spend their own money and far exceed the ‘six hour’ work day. I am glad some of the best will be rewarded with this program, and that funding is not explicitly tied to curriculum and standards that improve test scores.

Being a former high school physics teacher, I can appreciate any federal effort to support the development of better science and mathematics education. As a nation we need to produce more scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. A great place to start is letting those teachers who can really inspire, do what they do best… teach and excite our nation’s future citizens about mathematics and science. I have openly said that the reason I went into physics was my high school physics teacher. I hope to hear more stories like mine.


Chuck Fidler is an Assistant Professor of Physical Science and Science Education at Wheelock College in Boston, MA. He earned his PhD in Science Education from Syracuse University. Dr. Fidler can be contacted at .


Dr. Fidler,
Broadly speaking, I’m excited at the prospect of improving STEM teaching. I worry, however, that this isn’t the way to do it. How will these Master teachers be selected? Why is excellence in teaching conceptualized as something only individuals can do? How will reward on an individual basis support the kind of collective, continuous improvement I think our schools need?
I’m hopeful that we can find systems that will compensate our teachers more fairly and encourage them do do their very best. But as others have pointed out, I’m not convinced that teachers are holding back on their best practices until they get paid more. What if this investment was in a system more likely to lead to improvements and sharing of information, rather than congratulating those in the lead?

Posted @ Tuesday, July 24, 2012 3:04 PM by sdot