News & Updates

Exploring Long-Term Solutions To Strengthen the Diversity and Support of the STEM Teacher Workforce

Guest post written by Dr. Joseph Wilson and Eduardo Celtin
Dr. Joseph Wilson is a Teach For America—Phoenix alumnus and senior managing director of the organization’s STEM initiative.
Eduardo Celtin is the president of Amgen Foundation

Individuals with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines have no shortage of job opportunities. However, the majority of STEM fields - including teaching - continue to be disproportionately comprised of individuals who are Caucasian and come from backgrounds with higher income levels. In 2011, for example, African Americans accounted for 11 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but only 6 percent of STEM workers. That same year, Latinos represented 15 percent of the total workforce, but just 7 percent of STEM workers.

At Teach For America and the Amgen Foundation, we believe that teaching is among the most important professions in the fields of STEM. We believe that the STEM teacher workforce should serve as a model for what we hope to see across the sector – one that is rich in diverse talent and has development opportunities that will keep professionals in the industry long-term.

However, we know the current STEM teacher workforce (and associated STEM fields) does not yet reflect these ideals. understand that recruiting diverse talent in the teaching profession and providing STEM educators with development opportunities is hard work. And we are also aware that we won’t find solutions working in a vacuum.

That’s why earlier this month our two organizations invited educators, private-sector leaders, leading STEM organizations, and members of congress to convene on Capitol Hill to explore how we can collectively diversify, support, and strengthen the STEM teacher workforce. Attendees heard from 15 Amgen Fellows, who are Teach For America alumni who continue to teach STEM courses in low-income schools and who exemplify Teach For America’s core values.

During this event, panelists advocated for earlier access to STEM opportunities amongst low-income students and students of color. Attendees reiterated that only with a solid foundation in STEM education can these underrepresented communities pursue STEM in college and career. And we heard passionate calls to elevate the teaching profession to be considered equal to other STEM careers such as doctors, scientists, programmers, engineers, and mathematicians.

Teach For America is already thinking through how we can bring these ideals to life and further increase the diversity of our STEM corps. In the 2014-15 school year, 35 percent of secondary STEM corps members identified as people of color, including 7 percent as Latino and 11 percent as African American. And we’re doing more to strengthen our professional development and post-corps support, in part through a pilot program that supports alumni educators in their third, fourth, and fifth years teaching. Twelve regions have already created programs to support alumni educators in this way.

Teachers are catalysts for change. By creating a more diverse and well-supported STEM teacher workforce, we aim to prepare the next generation of innovators who will, ultimately, help improve lives. We’re so inspired by the cross-sector representation we saw on Capitol Hill, and look forward to continued opportunities to partner to support the STEM teaching workforce.

To learn more about the Teach For America’s STEM programs, visit the Teach For America website. Follow @AmgenFoundation to stay up to date with all STEM-related news from the Amgen Foundation.