In his State of the Union address last month, U.S. President Barack Obama called for an increased effort to prepare 100,000 science, technology, engineering and math teachers.
The University of Arizona has joined more than 100 partner organizations and businesses across the nation to work on this exact effort.
The UA's STEM Learning Center – a group of six UA colleges – has been invited to join 100Kin10, a movement launched last year to train and retain 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years.
"We simply do not have enough math and science teachers," said William McCallum, who heads the UA's mathematics department and is interim co-director of the UA center.
Overall, the incentive is to develop a STEM system, one that addresses the full range of needs necessary to support students, educators and researchers.
"The scale needed is huge, so we have to approach this in a systematic way," McCallum said.
The UA center, and its respective collaborators, are in the process of launching and expanding teacher training programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
"The motivation is to be able to better educate our children," McCallum said, adding that the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in mathematics, which he helped draft, also is driving the demand for more, better-trained STEM educators.
But this is not merely about numbers. Teacher retention, outreach and experiential learning opportunities for youth are other areas of emphasis.
The UA also is expanding resources for professional development and growing a STEM-centered network among faculty, staff, teachers, businesses and others.
Also, enhancing the STEM capacity has been deemed an important imperative to boosting the nation's economy, security and propelling democratic ideals forward.
"The country is at a critical juncture. Our need for STEM capacity in every part of our economy far outpaces our ability to train and keep great STEM talent," Talia Milgrom-Elcott, program officer at Carnegie Corporation of New York, said in a prepared statement issued in January.
The Carnegie Corporation and Opportunity Equation launched the nationwide STEM movement with additional backing from NewSchools Venture Fund and the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.
"We need more than just an infusion of excellent STEM teachers, we must find new ways to identify and recruit talented women and men and support them once they're in the classroom so that they keep improving and continue teaching our children," Milgrom-Elcott also said.
At the UA, the Math & Science Teacher Education/Retention Industry Partnerships (MASTER-IP) and Teach Arizona programs are expanding into Chandler, Ariz.
Both are illustrations of the UA's commitment to the STEM movement, said Bruce Johnson, who heads the UA's teaching, learning and sociocultural studies department in the College of Education.
Also, the network being developed is designed to create better cohesion around UA STEM-related programs, while also serving as a centralized location for information and resources for educators and community members.
"Right now, we have districts each year scrambling for math and science teachers. They are in high demand," said Johnson, also the interim co-director of the UA's STEM center.
"It starts with the needs of the community," he added. "The next level is that we need to reach a higher level of quality teaching."
More support and initiatives are coming, particularly by way of federally and locally funded initiatives at the UA, Johnson said.
And the UA, like the other partner organizations and agencies involved, is entitled to apply for funding that will be made available by 100Kin10. With the announcement of the movement came an initial member pledge to raise $20 million for the cause.
Johnson and McCallum said this should encourage more collaboration instead of competition for funds.
"We have a lot of collaborations going on to avoid duplicating efforts," McCallum said. "That makes the effort stronger."