Helping students with science, math and technology is the goal of the TOPS – Teaching Opportunities for Partners in Science – program offered through the San Joaquin County Office of Education, with openings available for the coming school year.
Being sought are volunteers in Farmington and at the in-town Dent Elementary campus, while there are helpers ready to go at Van Allen and Collegeville.
“I recruit people who have an interest or background in teaching, science, engineering or math. They volunteer for a few hours every other week, teaching science to a grade or two at a local school,” said coordinator Nancy Stenzler.
The Times recently did a question and answer session with Stenzler about the specifics of the program and how those interested can get involved for the 2016-17 school year, which is rapidly approaching.
Q: What specifically do your volunteers do?
A: Volunteers will go to one specific school where they will teach a 45-60 minute hands-on science or engineering class to approximately 25 students at a time. Usually, one grade level is targeted and the class is taught two to three times on one day. The volunteer will go to the school site every other week.
Where do you have the volunteer opportunities available for the coming school year?
All public, private and charter schools have access to the TOPS Program. Currently Dent and Farmington schools have requested volunteers.
Are there specific requirements your volunteers have to meet?
A background in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math or teaching is preferred though not required. An interest in working with kids and inspiring them in the areas of STEM is the main goal.
Do they set their own hours or are there assigned times/tasks?
Each volunteer will be assigned a “Lead Teacher” who will communicate regularly with them. A set day of the week and time is usually agreed upon by the principal, lead teacher and volunteer. Even so, this is flexible since volunteers often travel or have other commitments.
How many volunteers do you have currently in the Escalon district?
Currently, two volunteers exist in the Escalon district (Van Allen, Collegeville) and we would like to expand that.
Is there a deadline for applying or do you look for new volunteers on a continual basis?
Volunteers are recruited on a continual basis. Most volunteers will prefer September-May at the school, however, some will do a half year of volunteering as well (September-December or January-May).
Anything else you think would be helpful to know?
All training and materials are provided by the San Joaquin County Office of Education, STEM Department.
Currently the program has 25 volunteers with various backgrounds. The volunteers get a great sense of making a difference in the lives of kids in the area of STEM. They inspire, encourage and educate. The volunteers also get together as a group. They provide support to each other and strong friendships develop. Imagine a room of engineers, physicians, teachers, physical therapists, computer scientists, etc. When you put all of these great minds together, some amazing things happen in the classroom!
Having a professional in the area of STEM in the classroom favorably impacts the teachers as well as the principal. Everyone is encouraged and learns new things. New teachers have the support of an experienced STEM professional. Experienced teachers learn something new themselves. The volunteer gets the sense of making a difference in their community. Overall, everyone benefits in some way.
Those interested in volunteering or learning more about the program can contact Stenzler at email@example.com or by calling 209-468-4881.