Sen. Al Franken Courts Minnesota Teachers

Posted at: 02/22/2013 5:55 PM
Updated at: 02/22/2013 10:52 PM
By: Travis Dill

Senator Al Franken spoke at a science teachers conference on Friday calling for support to create a group of better paid mentor educators.

In a region dominated by mining and medical industries students need to understand science, technology, engineering and math to get a job. Together those subjects are called STEM.

The DECC filled with STEM teachers for a science education conference on Friday. Franken said these teachers could make more money in another career.

“People with STEM skills, on the open market, are more valuable and we need to keep them teaching,” Franken said.

To do that he wants to give the top STEM educators nationwide a wage increase, but they'll have to mentor younger teachers.

Educator Andrew Tubesing isn't sold on the proposed bill, but said higher pay can pull teachers away from the classroom.

“In almost all cases that I know of the lowest paid job in any field is teaching it. Yeah that's a challenge,” Tubesing said.

And the conference showed how mentoring can work. Tubesing showed teachers an easy way to expose kids to electrical engineering using batteries and LEDs.

“And you know the more we can do to help kids understand what's out there and what they might want to get into or be interested in the better,” Tubesing said.

Franken said millions of jobs openings across the nation could be filled if students had a stronger STEM background.

The Exploradome is one way to do that. It's an inflatable planetarium, and a portable field trip.

“Think of Google Earth on steroids where it incorporates the entire universe,” former educator Joel Halvorson said.

He said the interactive experience uses current satellite images and that can get kids interested in the careers behind it.

“So we can do this wonderful narrative between the science of what those satellites, for example, are capturing and the engineering actually required to build them,” Halvorson said.

These examples of science help students retain the knowledge, and they are fun for both the kids and the teachers.

Senator Franken did introduce a similar bill last year that failed to get traction.