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Teach Maui: STEM Teachers Needed

Debra Nakama STEM


For those seeking to share their love and knowledge of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through teaching, you couldn’t find a better place than Maui. The county has not just acknowledged the need for more STEM educators, it has made an earnest commitment to increase its opportunities in STEM learning.

This past summer, Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino officially proclaimed August 10-15, 2020 as STEM Week in Maui. Mayor Victorino said, “STEM education is needed to prepare our state’s youth for high-growth, high-demand careers in computer science, engineering, cyber security, health, life and physical sciences, and math fields. And, we encourage the public to support organizations such as Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) that are helping to build, grow, and strengthen Hawai‘i’s STEM education-to-workforce pipeline.”

In a Facebook post announcing the proclamation, the County of Maui shared some of the progress it has made in this endeavor. For one, since MEDB launched the Ke Alahele Education Fund in 2006, it has provided 344 grants to support “students’ needs for STEM equipment, robotics programs, media labs, environmental/sustainability projects, internships, teacher training and more.”

Also, the University of Hawaii Maui College’s (UHMC) Chancellor Lui Hokoanaacknowledged the perceived lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs, and perhaps more important, the fact that minority students were falling behind their white counterparts in STEM. It is a priority at UHMC to encourage our students as well high school students in our community, especially Native Hawaiians, Filipinos and other minority students, to engage and excel at STEM.

Data from Vital Signs, an Education Commission of the United States project that provides state-by-state data on the condition of STEM education, reports that “business leaders in Hawai‘i cannot find the STEM talent they need to stay competitive.” Between 2012 and 2016, the percent of high school students in Hawai‘i interested in STEM decreased by 6%, according to a report by ACT. The same report stated that high school students who fail to meet or surpass the ACT STEM benchmark are much less likely to persevere in college and earn a STEM degree within six years.

Research shows that teachers’ content knowledge and teaching experience in STEM can affect student performance; and Hawai‘i students are less likely than their peers nationally to have experienced STEM teachers. These findings and the following statistics point to some of the STEM-related challenges Maui County faces:
  • Of the teachers hired in 2017-2018 (the most recent HISDOE Employment Report), 40% (74/186) were teaching outside their area of preparation, did not hold a teacher license, and/or do not complete a teacher training program.
  • Academic achievement at each school is below the state average in math, ranging from a shocking 15% to 34% proficiency, and all but one school is below the state average in language arts and science (ranging from 36% to 49% proficiency).
One possible reason students do not complete STEM degrees is the shortage of qualified STEM teachers. We invite STEM majors and professionals to complete our interest form to learn more about teaching STEM on Maui.
About the Author
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Debra Nakama

Dr. Nakama holds a doctorate of philosophy in higher education from the UH at Manoa. As the vice chancellor of student affairs at University of Hawaii Maui College, Dr. Debra A. Nakama writes about today’s most pressing educational issues on student diversity, equity, and inclusion experiences.