CPS creates easier path to teaching for STEM professionals

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With many new jobs in the sciences, technology, engineering and math fields, a Chicago Public Schools program is helping prepare students while offering career options to industry professionals.

Robotics requires learning many skills, but teacher Nick Anaya admits it's an easy sell.

"When you say 'Who wants to build a robot?' They're like 'yes!' But then you tell them 'Okay, well you need to learn trigonometry to build the robot,' they're like, 'Okay, I'm willing," Anaya said.

Anaya knows what's required in the engineering world. He was a professional engineer when he began volunteering in the Lindblom Robotics Club. As happens in careers, sitting in meetings as a project manager wasn't as fun or fulfilling as helping the students with their projects.

"It's awesome. They just light up," Anaya said.

This year, Anaya became a full-time teacher at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in the city's West Englewood neighborhood. CPS is trying to make this career transition easier for the sake of students' futures.

"The value of having a person who's actually done that work, it allows that teacher to create lessons where they can actually apply those skills. And that goes above and beyond what we see in some of our classrooms today," CPS Chief Education Officer said.

CPS is trying to sell Chicago's Best program to local corporations. The corporations would assist employees who want to teach and those employees ultimately are helping to create the scientists and engineers of the future. Baxter has already signed on.

"Providing this Best program and getting those who have that professional expertise that Baxter is able to offer in the health sciences and getting it into the classroom is absolutely going to make a difference," said Alice Campbell, senior director of global community relations at Baxter.

The proof may be back in robotics class.

"It's opened my mind to what I can do as a person, how much change I can make. I never knew I could do that. And mechanical engineering is the thing for me I think," said Faith Jones, a senior at Lindblom.

For those changing careers, the reality is that they may be taking a pay cut to teach in the classroom - but they say it's worth the sacrifice.
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