What is the Teachers of STEM Initiative?
It is estimated that seventy-five percent of the fastest growing occupations now require Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge (as reported by the Office of the Chief Scientist 2014). As noted in the report, students engaging with STEM education will develop in-demand skills that are relevant and highly valuable to an increasingly wide range of occupations. Workplaces of the future will be adaptive and nimble, and employees will need to be reflective of this. It is imperative that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are an integral part of this future.
Funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency, the Stronger Smarter Institute developed the Teachers of STEM Initiative (ToSI) as an innovative response to support Indigenous women to succeed in obtaining a STEM teaching qualification. As part of the Institute’s SSiSTEMIK Pathways, ToSI also provides professional development programs available to all educators seeking to improve the STEM educational experience of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students.
The ToSI Initiative aims to improve the STEM education experience of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, particularly women and girls, by:
- Supporting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women to complete STEM teaching qualifications;
- Increasing the number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women teaching STEM in schools; and
- Offering SSiSTEMIK specific Professional Development for any educators
We are proud to announce and celebrate that two of our inaugural scholarship recipients have successfully completed post-graduate STEM teaching qualifications.
Alumni Experience – Lisa Capewell
Lisa Capewell, a teacher at Meekatharra School of the Air is one of the first graduates from the program, completing her Graduate Certificate in STEM at the Queensland University of Technology. Lisa says that completing her study has boosted her confidence in sharing Indigenous culture through STEM and inspired her to do further inquiry and project-based STEM with students on campus. “I have shared my experience with the staff at work, and we have implemented a yarning circle when on camps,” Capewell says. “I feel more confident in planning and sharing Indigenous knowledge with the students and recognising Indigenous people as the first scientists, astronomers, and engineers.”
The Institute’s ToSI program supported participants with an initial training held in Redcliffe. Capewell says, “Bringing us together at the start was a great way to build connections with other strong women. The check-ins were always supportive and a great way to know you aren’t the only one struggling with juggling work, family and study.”
Alumni Experience – Flori King-Smith
Flori King-Smith also completed the Graduate Certificate in STEM at the Queensland University of Technology. Working as a Diamond Spirit Mentor Teacher at Bremer State High School in Queensland, King-Smith believes the ToSI program validated “how important it is to get into STEM in order to preserve Aboriginal culture”. She felt the program provided social and wellbeing assistance in a culturally safe way and noted that “…a program that is run by Indigenous women [which helps] Indigenous women to gain a qualification, you couldn’t ask for the most appropriate way to help me grow.” She says that staying connected to other women in the ToSI program helped her to stay motivated and persist through the challenges.
With the tools learned in the program and the support of staff, King-Smith aims to create a learning environment that is engaging and accessible to First Nation people. She believes that an environment that fosters culturally responsive teaching practices that are appropriate and meet the students’ needs, holds her in good stead to have a positive impact on students in a more culturally safe way.
Our first two graduates have shown that through hard work and perseverance, they can be successful in their studies. Lisa’s advice to others who might be interested in the program, is to “believe you can succeed”.
We commend them both on their efforts and congratulate them on their graduation.
If you are interested in being part of the Teachers of STEM initiative, get in touch with us to find out more.
The ToSI program also supports our Jarlarla Program. This is an innovative and practical professional development for all educators designed to ignite your passion to incorporate Indigenous Knowledges into your STEM curriculum.