Project Equips Teachers to Equip Students for Careers

Loudoun teachers have become students over the summer, with help from the George Washington University’s Teachers in Industry Project.

Throughout the past three weeks, 15 teachers learned from professionals in a variety of fields, including the Loudoun County Government, Inova Loudoun Hospital and Dulles Airport.

Juliet Kenny, a math teacher at John Champe High School in Aldie, said she decided to apply for the program to broaden her scope of the classroom.

“No matter what subject you teach, [teachers] always get the question, ‘When am I ever going to use this in real life?” Kenny said the program helped her explain just how math is applied in the world. “[I can now tell them], ‘You are going to use this in real life, and here’s how.’”

From left to right, Chris Buffone, Sarah Conrad, Juliet Kenny, and Michael Vereb prepare to watch a surgery at Inova Loudoun Hospital as part of the Teachers in Industry Project. (Stacey Miller/Inova Loudoun Hospital)
From left to right, Chris Buffone, Sarah Conrad, Juliet Kenny, and Michael Vereb prepare to watch a surgery as part of the Teachers in Industry Project. (Stacey Miller/Inova Loudoun Hospital)

For Michael Vereb, an economics teacher at Park View High School in Sterling, the goal was to better understand how to teach students real-world concepts that lead to a variety of professions, not just teaching.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, and I don’t know how to prepare my kids well for other jobs,” he said. “I wanted to learn how to do that well. I wanted to learn how to prepare my students for things I don’t know how to prepare them for.”

In partnership with George Washington University’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus, the Teachers in Industry program selects teachers to take part in an externship with different companies and organizations.

During their visit to Inova Loudoun Hospital this week, the teachers saw the behind-the-scenes work of a pharmacy, stepped into an operating room to watch a robotic surgery, and spent time in various medical offices. Some of the activities are geared toward the teachers’ area of expertise, but others are not.

Mercer Middle School teacher Sarah Conrad said that is one of the things she loves most about the program. “From a perspective outside of my specific content area, it gives me an understanding of what’s happening in my community. [It teaches me] how people work outside of a school building, and how I can implement those skills into my everyday teaching,” she said.

Chris Buffone, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn, agreed. “It’s about identifying real problems and bringing them back to the classroom to make it more authentic for the kids,” he said.

The consensus among the teachers was the program will help them create innovative new projects for students that will push them to strengthen their critical thinking skills.

“When you have taught for a certain amount of time, your content is well known to you,” Conrad said. “But going back into the learner role has re-inspired that curiosity that was within me before hand. I think it brings me back to what students are learning in my class, and inspires me to learn more.”

As for the partners of the program, the satisfaction comes in knowing the teachers will go back in the fall with an open mind.

Stacey Miller, government and community relations liaison for Inova Loudoun Hospital, said the goal is to create a cross-discipline interest among the teachers. From nurses and doctors to members of the communication department, Miller said the teachers’ time at Inova exposes them to a range of fields.

“When you are out in the real world, you have got to learn to work across different departments. [The teachers] saw how everybody worked together as team,” she said. “We know what we’re exposing them to is going to go back [to the classroom], and they’re going to have this cross-departmental type of learning.”

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