Southern AZ facing a shortage of STEM teachers

Southern AZ facing a shortage of STEM teachers
Tucson facing a shortage of STEM teachers

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Robyn Yewell spends all day pushing young minds. Inside her classroom at Harelson Elementary you’ll find her students focused on STEM - teaching centered around science, technology, engineering, and math. All important subjects.

The only problem is—she’s one of the few teachers in Arizona certified to do so.

Arizona is already facing a teacher shortage, and within that, a shortage of STEM teachers.

“I know here in Arizona we have a huge teacher turn over rate. For a variety of reasons. But it’s especially hard to find people trained in STEM.” said Yewell.

Teaching these kinds of lessons comes with quite a bit of homework for Yewell. Planning lessons takes lots of prep and clean up. But for teachers who are not knowledgeable in STEM, it’s an even bigger problem to solve.

"It’s hard to teach STEM if you don’t have a STEM background.” said Yewell.

The root of this equation? Those who are graduating with STEM majors aren’t rushing to the classrooms.

"Even entry level engineers, entry level doctors, nurses, they make a significant amount of money. Even the biologists, chemists, mathematicians. They do really well professionally. Teaching doesn’t pay that.” said Brian Stewart, the Dean of Education at Pima Community College.

Stewart explains that teaching isn’t held in the same high regard as it used to. And until that shifts back, the shortage will continue.

"You’re never going to get the same pay as an engineer. But if it’s just a little more and a little more prestige of being a teacher, you’re going to get that draw more, so we really need to focus on these areas.” said Stewart.

And when it comes down to it, Yewell said those who will benefit the most from this fix are the children.

“By teachers teaching STEM to kids they’ll be interested, and they’ll be the leaders of tomorrow.” said Yewell.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.