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A STEM teacher’s knowledge of industry can inspire students

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Teachers make the world go around.

I always knew that I wanted to work in aerospace – to make a difference in the world – and I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported my excitement for aeronautics and astronautics.

I was inspired throughout my childhood and education by technology, and seeing how it changed our lives daily. But I never really understood, until I was older, the impact teachers had on my interest and the capability to apply technology through engineering.

Laura McGill

Laura McGill

All of my teachers were excellent. My fifth grade teacher was Mr. Bill Hamilton, one of those extra special teachers who made the classroom fun while encouraging us to reach further than what was in the course work and our textbooks, to enjoy learning just for the sake of the knowledge and fulfillment that it brings. He would plant notes or other items in unusual places around the room that could be redeemed for extra credit or a new learning experience.  Looking for these pushed our natural curiosity to new heights and taught us to pay attention to our surroundings, always looking for the next surprise opportunity.

Mr. Hamilton was also a private pilot who flew for the Civil Air Patrol, and he introduced aerospace into our curriculum. How many fifth graders get to learn about history of the Wright Brothers, meteorology, and how airplanes are controlled in yaw, pitch and roll? He made all of these easily understandable for 10-year-olds, and I was hooked. I’m sure he did the same for other students through his ongoing discussions that tied our studies to topics like current events, ecology, travel, and numerous other subjects. I am incredibly grateful to him and the many other wonderful teachers who influenced my life and career.

Teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts to younger children might seem premature. But for a company like mine – and for the economic vitality of our nation – it’s imperative that we provide our teachers with the tools, skills and support to enable the next generation.  

That’s why I am so proud to be leading the charge for Raytheon Missile Systems in our participation in Teachers in Industry. The program provides middle and high school STEM teachers – who are pursuing their master’s degree – the opportunity to spend their summer working with industry partners in our community. Here’s how one of those teachers describes benefits of the program.

“The big thing that I want to share with my students, is that working in a field like this isn’t like working out of textbooks,” said Stephanie Bowyer, math teacher in the Sahuarita Unified School District. “You’re solving problems that maybe no one has ever solved before, and maybe there isn’t a perfect solution, but maybe there’s a best solution.”

Today’s students need more stimulating opportunities to explore math and science throughout their educational journey. The Teachers in Industry program provides educators with the knowledge and skills to enhance their students’ education. It helps teachers answer their students’ questions about why math and science are important. They are able to relate how they worked with professionals to apply these skills to solve real world problems.

When I volunteer in our community – whether at a middle school classroom or a college classroom – the students often don’t know what they want to study or do with their life after they complete their education. I want them to see and hear from their teachers that completing their algebra or statistics classes serves a purpose.

My hope is that these curious students find something they are passionate about – as I was able to find in the field of engineering – and turn that passion into a successful career.

Raytheon’s mission is to provide our men and women in uniform with the best possible technology so they can do their jobs and return home safely to their families. We couldn’t do that without engineering excellence and an unwavering commitment to innovation. That’s why we’re so focused today on preparing the inventors and innovators of tomorrow.

It’s all with the goal of nurturing curiosity in children. Capturing that curiosity today will inspire the grand technological inventions and capabilities of tomorrow.

Laura McGill is the vice president of engineering at Raytheon.

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