Edward P. Ortleb, the 2017 recipient, devoted his 60-year career to science education. He brought science to countless numbers of students in a variety of ways – as a classroom teacher, a professor to aspiring teachers, a community and civic leader, and as an author of numerous science textbooks.
His career is a testament to the ability of teachers to shape lives and improve society.
Mr. Ortleb exemplifies what education research consistently shows: Of all the various school-related factors in determining students’ success, teachers matter most.
We’ve taken that research to heart and have based many of our efforts on improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge and training for teachers. It’s why we support organizations that work directly with teachers and have entered into partnerships to ensure that sound public policies cultivate and empower great educators.
And starting with Teacher Appreciation Week last month, we’ve been highlighting these partnerships with a simple message: Great teachers are critical to our students’ ability to lead rewarding, successful lives—now, and in the future.
Why does this work matter? Because economic data show that roughly 1 million additional STEM graduates will be needed in the U.S. over the next decade even for jobs in non-traditional STEM fields where critical thinking is important. We employ more than 44,000 professionals — including more than 29,000 scientists and engineers — so our future depends on a diverse workforce with strong STEM skills.
While the need is great, our education system isn’t preparing enough STEM-savvy students to meet this demand and isn’t providing enough access to STEM education for minority students.
For example, a 2015 Change the Equation report on diversity noted that women currently comprise only 12 percent of the engineering workforce. Classes considered prerequisites for STEM degrees in college (such as Algebra 2 or Physics) are not universally offered in every high school.
The education and business communities have made great strides in explaining why STEM is important for all students. Further, real progress in STEM education and access can continue as we work together. So, we’ll continue to champion our nation’s teachers and the teaching profession, and we look forward to meeting the next Ed Ortleb.