Sitting in on interviews with Tucson mayoral candidates is a world away from Brianna Mustard’s regular day job, where she teaches math at San Miguel High School.
But as a calculus and trigonometry teacher, Brianna Mustard is familiar with plotting data sets that show the relationship between two or more variables. So, it has not been hard for her to determine how her summer job at Tucson Electric Power, supporting Government Relations, will translate into new skills she will bring into the classroom.
Mustard recently completed her third year in the Teachers in Industry program, which focuses on teachers in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math. The program provides the teachers with practical industry experience that they can then share back with their students.
In her summer work, she assists with building business relationships with government officials, regulatory and permitting agencies and other utility representatives. In that capacity, she has helped support the rollout of the Sabino Canyon Crawlers, the zero-emission shuttles at one of Tucson’s most beloved attractions.
She also worked to identify the needs of local neighborhood associations, supported the team in briefings with local leaders and managed a project to advance the company’s initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The work keeps the side of her brain busy that lives in a world of mathematical practice.
For example, she explained, she finds solutions to problems using analysis, crafting logical arguments, identifying patterns, and choosing the most effective tools.
“Some of the mathematical practices include making sense of problems and persevering in solving them,” she said. “This helps reinforce for me the ways my students can become more reflective about their own skills and practices around these mathematical concepts. We build goals around them and work toward better understanding ourselves within these practices to identify strengths while also being able to identify opportunities for growth.”
TEP has participated in the program since its inception in 2010, offering 50 internships. This year, four teachers are embedded throughout the company. The others are building customer communications, supporting our power production area, and supporting substation engineering.
JoLee Bracamonte, Talent Acquisition Specialist at TEP said the program is a win-win. Quality education strengthens the local community, she said, and broadens students’ awareness of diverse career opportunities and industries yet to be imagined.
“It also helps retain STEM Teachers in Tucson, and the teachers bring a great deal to our company. They’re skilled, creative and excited for the opportunity to learn more about industry.”
The paid work experiences are paired with either a master’s degree in Teaching and Teacher Education or professional development credits.
The program only works with industry support, noted Dr. Suzanne Kaplan, Director of Teachers in Industry. Participating teachers are able to demonstrate the importance of collaboration and problem solving, and are able to use real-world problems as examples, she said.
“These classroom-business partnerships positively impact STEM teaching and learning and lead to an increased number of high school graduates who can successfully enroll in STEM majors and be better prepared for STEM careers.”
For Mustard, it was time well spent, better equipping her to prepare students for jobs that have yet to be imagined.
“The program provides opportunity to experience industry outside the four walls of our classroom,” she explained. “These experiences help us as we help students not only envision themselves in STEM-related fields but build their confidence that they have skills and talents that will help them contribute to the STEM field in the future.”
For more information about this unique program, visit: https://teachersinindustry.arizona.edu/