Teacher Quest Tampa Bay Celebrates Successful First Year

Posted on: September 30, 2009

The Teacher Quest Tampa Bay Pilot Program successfully completed its first year by placing seven secondary teachers at select companies. The Helios Education Foundation and Florida’s Technological Research and Development Authority are partnering in this 3-year collaborative project to provide unique, six-week employment opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for secondary school teachers in the Tampa Bay Area. The initiative creates a necessary, relevant, progressive link between education and the business community.

Recruitment for 2010 is now underway in the fields of aerospace/defense, biotechnology, energy, engineering, finance, information technology, high-tech manufacturing and the maritime industry. Businesses will benefit by integrating motivated professionals into their workforce who are screened, hired, and paid as temporary employees of TRDA.

“Shaping the workforce of tomorrow begins today in our classrooms, with our teachers,” said Diane Matthews, Director of Education for TRDA. “Educators are often faced with the challenge of how to spark student interest in math, science and technology, and this program addresses this challenge by giving teachers the edge they need to truly inspire students and better prepare them for their future careers.”

Teachers worked this summer as scientists, software specialists, database technology advisors, maritime interns, 3-D modeling/product marketing assistants and purchasing/planner analysts, absorbing technical know-how and on-the-job experience that will follow them back to the classroom to energize and motivate their students. By gaining real-life experience in the corporate environment, these teachers will bring a relevant, fresh, forward-thinking perspective, as well as career information, to their students.

“I was fortunate to work for a defense contractor in supply chain management and interfaced with some brilliant engineering minds,” said Doug Haskitt, teacher at Clearwater Intermediate School. “This was a great learning opportunity and a win-win situation, and I was even able to obtain a program mini-grant for my solar model car project. I strongly recommend this program for teachers and prospective businesses!”

In turn, six Tampa Bay businesses gained a cost-effective turn-key way to bring a skilled temporary employee to their company with a fresh perspective and a unique set of skills. The 2009 business sponsors included Alliant Techsystems, Inc., Custom Manufacturing & Engineering, Inc., Engraving Systems Support, Inc., HSA Engineers & Scientists, The International Propeller Club of the US - Port of Tampa, and Raytheon Network Centric Systems.

“The teacher brought a refreshing diversity of thought to our environment and is clearly energized to carry our message of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics back into the classroom,” said Steve Park, Director of Program Engineering at Raytheon Network Centric Systems. “I look forward to participating again next year.”

To commemorate the success of the program’s inaugural year, teachers and their business sponsors, school principals, school district representatives, as well as prospective business partners, attended a recognition luncheon at the Marshall Student Center at the University of South Florida. The teachers presented their Action Plans, outlining the lessons they developed during their summer work experience, and agreed that students are eager for motivating activities that link math and science to the workplace.

“Helios Education Foundation believes that education changes lives, but research shows us that middle school students are not getting the connection between what’s happening in the classroom and how that applies to the real world,” said Foundation president and CEO Paul Luna. “Teacher Quest Tampa Bay is helping make that connection very real for teachers first, and that will ultimately help connect the dots for students as well.”

TRDA will continue its efforts to include key industry sectors vital to the economic growth in the Tampa Bay Area. For more information on how your company can provide a work experience for a teacher next summer, contact Diane Matthews at 866.263.9564, Ext. 106 or at

Category: College and Career Readiness

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