Triumvirate for Learning: STEM Professionals, Students and Teachers Collaborate Continously

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Triumvirate for Learning: STEM Professionals, Students and Teachers Collaborate Continously

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

TAF Academy is a public middle and high school run by a partnership of a non-profit (TAF) and a school district. Through Teacher/Scientist Partnerships (TSP), STEM professionals (e.g., computer programmers and engineers) and TAF Academy teachers collaborate. STEM professionals work with teachers on improving teachers’ understanding of real-world STEM applications; TSP also puts STEM professionals in direct contact with students—they teach classes in person (stuff like computer programming and project management), communicate with students via online forums and Skype, and evaluate student work. TSP will increase the number of youth who can apply STEM thinking to solving real-world issues, and who enter STEM fields. And, TSP ensures the vitality of the nation’s future STEM workforce.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our target population is youth of color, many of whom are also from low-income families. The first Academy is in Kent, a diverse Seattle suburb. In 2009-10, 64% of TAF Academy students were youth of color and 55% were from low-income families. We plan to open four more TAF Academies in areas with similar demographics in Washington State by 2020. TAF has been working in STEM education in the region’s diverse neighborhoods for 16 years. Our executive team is comprised of visionary change-makers who have been in STEM industry and education for decades. Getting students of color interested in STEM-focused programs can be a challenge because kids of color don’t see themselves in STEM, and even parents in communities of color can have a hard time envisioning their children in STEM—they might not have been interested in math or science themselves when they were young, and they are not used to seeing people like them represented in STEM fields. But we understand the cultures of local communities of color, educators and STEM industry, and how to successfully form coalitions of the three. Because of our work and because our staff is comprised of some former STEM professionals who are also people of color, we also know how to find STEM professionals of color to volunteer for TSP. We recruit through word-of-mouth, by meeting with minority professional organizations and diversity officers, and simply by verbally communicating our need for STEM professionals of color when meeting with corporate representatives.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

TAF helps students of color realize their potential through the power of a STEM education. Although 29% of the U.S. population is African American, Native American or Latino, these groups represent only 9% of the college-educated STEM workforce; cyclically, the lack of STEM role models for youth of color results in these students’ being left behind in STEM. TAF Academy’s TSP program confronts this issue creatively. We recruit a high percentage of professionals of color to ensure that our diverse students can see themselves in their mentors. In most teacher-scientist partnership programs, scientists and teachers work together during the summer or otherwise outside of the school setting to create labs that teachers will later implement in the classroom, or teachers spend a couple of weeks doing research science so that they can better appreciate authentic applications of science. Existing programs that link students and teachers with STEM professionals include the GLOBE program, in which students from around the world collect data that scientists then use in research studies, and the National Lab Network, a website on which teachers recruit scientist partners by posting class project descriptions. TAF Academy’s TSP joins professionals from across education and STEM industry—where much of STEM innovation takes place and from which future workforce needs are defined. The model does not require that participating schools be located near a research university. TSP is continuous; it takes place during the school year and primarily at the school itself.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The TSP program has a menu of ways for STEM professionals to become involved with education. They can host student interns or class visits at their work, or teach workshops at the school. The flagship TSP partnership, though, consists of a long-term relationship between STEM professionals, teachers and students, through which STEM professionals help design and teach interdisciplinary projects that combine STEM coursework with learning objectives in the humanities, mirroring professional STEM applications. Through TSP, we work with STEM corporations to recruit teams of STEM professionals, who work with teachers and students in classrooms for at least 35 hours each semester. Teachers and STEM professionals work together to create, teach and evaluate projects, combining core-curriculum requirements with STEM workforce needs. Through participation in TSP, teachers increase their capacity to teach STEM while STEM professionals learn about education. TSP also puts STEM professionals in recurring contact with students—they teach lessons in person, and communicate with students regularly via email and web forums. They act as mentors and help students make connections between course material and real-life issues in STEM, and provide teachers and students with opportunities to see how STEM is used outside of the school setting. The TSP model has the potential to transform the STEM workforce now and in the future.
About You
Technology Access Foundation
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Technology Access Foundation

Organization Phone


Organization Address

4436 Rainier Ave S., Ste B, Seattle, WA 98118

Organization Country

, WA, King County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, WA, King County

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Trish Millines Dziko is the executive director and co-founder of Technology Access Foundation. Trish worked in the high-tech industry for 15 years as a software developer, designer and manager, including working as Microsoft's first senior diversity administrator. In this 15 years, she rarely saw another person of color in engineering or computer science. She saw how important technology was becoming in people’s daily lives, and that communities of color were being left behind. So, with social worker Jill Hull Dziko, who wanted to help the many underserved, bright African American youth she came into contact with as a social worker, she founded TAF. Trish conceptualized the Teacher Scientist Partnership program based on her knowing that there are not many teachers who understand the full spectrum of how STEM can be and is applied in the real world. And, it’s an opportunity to get corporations to invest in classrooms by investing people, giving teachers and students access to professional support. TSP seemed like a smarter, more authentic way to teach STEM.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

We measure the success of the TSP program by surveying teachers, students and STEM professionals at the end of each TSP-supported collaboration. We also record teachers’ and STEM professionals’ reflections about the program during and after their participation. STEM professionals administer surveys to students in order to determine what they’ve learned and what they need more help on, and design and grade student assessments; these grades are counted toward the students’ final course grades.

We’ve gotten great feedback so far. Many students who learned computer programming through a TSP-supported project, for example, reported that they want to know more about computer programming as a result of their participation, and some are even learning more on their own. Teachers say that they love working side-by-side with STEM professionals and learning how the things they teach translate to real-world applications.

"‘Authenticity’ is the name of the game around here, and having industry professionals in the classroom is very authentic and credible. It helps that the [STEM professionals] are young and cool, but when you factor in the fact that everything they are teaching and talking about comes from something they did at work yesterday, their credibility is unmatched.” – TAF Academy teacher, participant in TSP

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

TSP started as a pilot program that reached only 9th-grade students. Beginning in 2012, every TAF Academy student (6th-12th grades) will have some interaction with a STEM professional each semester, whether it’s through classes taught by TSP partners, workshops, internships or hosted visits to STEM companies. This means that we’ll also be reaching more teachers and including more STEM professionals. And, when we open the second TAF Academy in 2012, we’ll implement the program there too. After we’ve run the program for a couple of years, we will be able to document the process and its results and share with educators and STEM industry in other regions.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

This model requires an intensive outside-of-work commitment from participating STEM professionals. We want to make sure that they remain involved throughout the life of a project. Part of the solution to this potential issue is the team approach built into the TSP model—each partnership is comprised of a team of 2-4 STEM professionals working with one grade level; responsibility does not rest on one person alone. Project staff work with corporate partners to ensure accountability is built into the partnership; for example, companies make participation part of their employees’ regular work week, and one company we work with has made performance as a TSP partner part of their employees’ performance reviews. Because we have implemented these safeguards, and since partnering STEM professionals have shown a commitment by volunteering in the first place, we have not had a problem with burnout. The corporations with which we partner also recognize the need for such partnerships to ensure the future vitality and diversity of the STEM workforce.

We understand that other schools might be hesitant to commit to implementing a model like TSP because they are not used to working with STEM industry. But the model does not have to rely on pre-existing ties. Although such ties were useful in the initial planning phases of this project, we are now using a PM to recruit partners and manage relationships. And, while Seattle has an abundance of STEM corporations, even small towns can use the TIPS model by partnering with organizations that employ several STEM professionals.

Tell us about your partnerships

TAF is a pioneer in education. We make systemic change through creative partnerships, by combining the best of public and private education. Through partnerships we have proven that we can make a difference within the public-school system as it is today—cost-effectively building on our community’s existing investments in public-school facilities and resources to help more students of color succeed in college and STEM-based careers.

This project relies on partnerships between STEM industry and education. STEM professionals work with teachers and students in various ways, depending on teachers’ and students’ needs and STEM professionals’ skill sets. Under the umbrella of Teacher Scientist Partnerships, STEM corporations commit to providing opportunities for student interns; they host visits by teachers and students; and they enable their employees to teach classes or conduct workshops at TAF Academy.

These partnerships are managed by TAF. Participants are teachers (paid by the school district), STEM professionals who volunteer to participate but whose participation, in some cases, counts as part of their regular work week (paid by their employers), and students, who participate as part of their regular classes (free to students).

Explain your selections

TAF cultivates individuals and corporations, holds special events like our Leadership Breakfast and our Annual Report, and pursues other sources of government, foundation, corporate and individual support. Giving corporations an opportunity to be directly involved in education through TSP is also a great way to get them interested in funding education.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

TSP began at TAF Academy in the 2010-11 academic year. We recruited 4 partner STEM organizations for this initial phase. In January 2011, TAF hired a STEM integration program manager (PM) to oversee the TSP program, recruiting and working with corporate partners and helping to measure student and teacher growth—the PM is a former Microsoft employee with experience in student mentoring. With his leadership, we will be able to create more of a structure around the program and to document it so it can be replicated at other schools. We will implement more trainings to help orient teachers and STEM professionals to the program and to the different cultures of STEM industry and education. Initially, STEM professionals will participate in a day-long workshop to prepare them for working with students, including pacing lessons and speaking, and to help them work with teachers effectively. Once each semester, STEM professionals, teachers and staff will meet to establish norms and expectations for each workgroup, and to discuss ways in which the model might be improved. We will document the results of these meetings to share with other educators.

Partnerships and Accountability
Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

To recruit teams, the PM contacts corporations when we identify a targeted need for teacher and student support. After identifying an interested corporation, the PM meets with its representatives in person to outline the program and the necessary commitment. In cases where the PM identifies specific professionals before speaking with representatives from the corporation where they work, the PM and STEM professionals work together to gain corporate support for their participation. We also anticipate referrals of STEM professionals from previous project partners.

Each TSP team works with all of the teachers across one grade level on professional development, and to plan interdisciplinary projects. They work with students by teaching project components, by evaluating student work, and by being available for out-of-class support. Between in-person meetings, TSP partners communicate via online forums (TAF Academy uses Moodle—an online workspace—to house syllabi, class assignments, forums, etc.) and email, and by Skype. Partnering STEM professionals agree to respond to students and teachers within 24-48 hours of receiving a question online. Each TSP team also meets once per week for 2 hours, outside of the school. The PM is present at these meetings, which STEM professionals use to plan assignments and labs, grade assessments and read surveys taken to determine students’ mastery of the material STEM professionals have presented. The average weekly time commitment for each STEM professional is 3-4 hours.

Successful partnerships are able to benefit all parties: they provide teachers—many of whom are unprepared to teach STEM subjects—with necessary ongoing professional development; they expose teachers to new knowledge and demystify science for teachers by demonstrating the real-world application of scientific knowledge. Scientists also benefit, personally and professionally, and learn to appreciate the challenges and opportunities in K-12 education.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

In addition to students’ grades on TSP-supported projects going toward their final core course grades, students get credit for an “Extended STEM Research” elective for the project components that are specifically supported by STEM professionals. For example, if a student designs and populates a website for a humanities class, and the web design is taught by a STEM professional, the student’s programming will be assessed by the STEM professional and that grade will go toward Extended STEM Research. The information contained in the website will go toward the humanities grade. Students also sign contracts to demonstrate their commitment to TSP.


Investment, Marketing/Media, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

We could use more publicity about our programs outside of Washington State; we would like to expand our reach and share results more broadly. We could also use funding for the project and the school itself (whose existence enables project development). And, we are always looking for STEM professionals to act as mentors for our students.


Research/Information, Collaboration/Networking, Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

We are working to document the TSP model so that it can be shared with other educators. And, we are structuring TSP-related trainings so that they can be recorded and shared online. We can work with other educators and STEM corporations/professions who are interested in implementing this program.