Educators from 22 eastern Kentucky school districts have kicked off an education initiative aimed at building a STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by creating new opportunities for teachers through National Board Certification.
They were joined by Gov. Steve Beshear and Rep. Hal Rogers, co-chairmen of SOAR – Shaping Our Appalachian Region, in a ceremony July 20 at Clay County High School in Manchester.
Morehead State University has partnered with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Council on Postsecondary Education, the University of Pikeville, the Department for Local Government and Touchstone Energy Cooperatives to provide 64 teachers in 22 of the highest unemployment, highest poverty SOAR counties with National Board teaching certification. The selected teachers started the three-year program earlier this month.
“National Board certification of teachers is the critical first link in the chain of creating an environment where eastern Kentucky students can get a high-quality STEM-based education that leads to higher-wage jobs,” said Anthony “Tony” Campbell, president and CEO of East Kentucky Power Cooperative.
Along with obtaining the certification, teachers will receive a master’s degree with an emphasis on leadership at regional teaching centers close to their homes, plus rank change and salary increase, all provided at no cost to them or their school districts.
“This is where the rubber meets the road for the mission of SOAR – preparing our teachers and students for new opportunities through advanced, high-tech education in the classroom,” Rogers said. “It’s truly the first step to developing a skilled workforce pipeline that can improve our region’s portfolio for entrepreneurs and job creators.”
Nationwide, STEM jobs are growing 1.7 times faster than non-STEM jobs, according to the Department of Commerce.
“To accelerate our economic momentum and to make it sustainable long term, especially in eastern Kentucky, we realize we must build a workforce that can compete in the global economy,” Beshear said. “This STEM-based initiative will strengthen one of our greatest assets, our teachers, who will empower our students and better prepare them for a complex world. I want to thank all our partners with this innovative program for working together to make Kentucky’s education system a national model.”
Beshear invested $100,000 in funding for the initial phase of the project through the ARC and he is recommending $370,000 for the second phase.
The second phase of the initiative will bring Project Lead the Way curriculum to schools in the SOAR region. Project Lead the Way is endorsed nationwide as the premier approach to STEM education and will dramatically change the way STEM education is provided in our schools. Paired with National Board Certified Teachers, this curriculum provides opportunities for the new age of manufacturing, biomedical and technology careers that will revitalize Kentucky’s Appalachian Region.
“This initiative will be a great addition to the SOAR legacy in improving education and developing a K-16 future workforce across the region,” SOAR executive director Jared Arnett said. “Without question, this will help pave the road to a brighter future in Eastern Kentucky.”