Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone College instructor, David Topham, was interviewed by the East Bay Business Times about his Ohlone/IISME fellowship. The article is re-printed in full below.

Companies tap teachers to help train future work force

By Jorene Barut-Phillips.

Friday, September 7, 2007—Reprinted from East Bay Business Times.

This summer, Bay Area companies headed straight to the source to help ensure a future pool of strong, highly skilled workers in math, science and technology: teachers. By granting fellowships to 188 kindergarten through college-level instructors, 52 corporations employed skilled, cost-effective workers, who are now equipped to take new skills and strategies back to their classrooms to do their part in training tomorrow's work force.

At least that's the idea behind Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education, a nonprofit organization that pairs companies with teachers to improve education. Instructors complete an eight-week fellowship, then return to school and apply the real-world lessons learned on the job.

Oakland's Parker Elementary teacher Deidre Robinson worked in Applied Materials global information services group this summer. —Photo by Stephanie Secrest, East Bay Business Times.

More than 1.6 million students from 561 schools have benefited from Santa Clara-based IISME, founded 23 years ago by a consortium of Bay Area companies that partnered with the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. To date, the program has awarded 2,375 fellowships to teachers.

This summer, five East Bay companies served as corporate hosts, employing about 50 teachers. The five organizations were the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, AC Transit in Oakland, Dow Chemical Co. in Pittsburg, and New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. and Centillium Communications in Fremont.

IISME hopes more East Bay companies will participate. "The majority of the [East Bay] teachers are forced to commute to the South Bay for an opportunity to take part in this great program," said Tisha Bacigalupi, IISME's sponsor relations manager.

Deidre Robinson was one of those commuters. The fifth-grade teacher at Parker Elementary School in Oakland drove up to three hours round trip Monday through Friday to complete her 40-hour-a-week fellowship at Applied Materials in Santa Clara. Applied Materials supplies products and services to the semiconductor and flat panel-display industries, and recently entered the market for equipment to produce energy-efficient glass.

Robinson's fellowship was in the global information services group, which serves as the company's information technology department. She maintained and followed up on existing processes and updated more than 400 documents in the databases, along with completing training courses and learning various applications.

"My position involved a high level of confidentiality and required an extensive background check," said Robinson, who has been a teacher for four years. Her fellowship application process, which started in November, lasted about six months and included interviews by Applied mentors.

One of the most valuable lessons Robinson learned was a course of action for training: Plan, do, check and act. She will introduce her fifth-graders to the four-step procedure via PowerPoint and from there, objectives, expectations and benchmarks will emerge - or at least that's the goal.


In the "plan" phase, each student decides on an objective. For example, learning to read and comprehend at 139 words a minute. The "do" phase is when the student works to achieve the plan. "Check" means comparing and contrasting the starting point to the current status on a regular basis, weekly for example. "Act" means adjusting the work or activities accordingly to attain the objective.

Robinson also learned about and participated in cost-saving online conferencing. "The experience gave me hope and desire to work even more closely with my students on computers," she said. "I want to take it to a higher level in the classroom. It allows me to combine my own processes with what I learned and fine-tune it."

This is Robinson's second summer in the IISME program but her first at Applied Materials. This school year, at least 25 of her students and numerous colleagues will benefit from her fellowship, she said. She would like to see some bio-tech companies in Alameda County participate in the program.

Robinson received $7,400 in compensation for the eight-weeks. The cost to Applied, which hosted 18 teachers, was $12,000 per instructor.

While it is difficult to measure an immediate payoff in dollars, "the long-term payoff is much bigger," said Ana Espinola, Aplied senior human resources generalist. "The fellowship has provided Deidre renewed excitement in teaching and also given her a broader perspective on what it takes to work in a large corporation, specifically a high-tech company."

Many students at Ohlone College in Fremont will enter the high-tech work force soon and computer programming instructor David Topham [emphasis added] plans to bring textbook theories to life, using techniques he learned at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. this summer. NUMMI produces Toyota Corollas and Tacomas and Pontiac Vibes.

As a quality control fellow at NUMMI, Topham helped "streamline a business process related to warranty-parts returns by creating software to assist people in performing their role in the process," he said. As a result, he learned that "involving people who will use the software in the development helps make it more effective. Using familiar software as a foundation saves time and makes people more comfortable using it."

Approximately 60 students will profit from Topham's experiences this year. "I can bring these lessons into the classroom as motivating examples," he said. "I will also be able to specifically create exercises and labs that use techniques that I learned and developed while creating this application."

Topham, who has been a teacher for six years, worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 40 hours a week for his eight-weeks and was paid about $7,000. Topham's biggest challenge was gaining an understanding of the business process well enough to make good choices about the most effective software. His mentor was away at press time, according to IISME, and another NUMMI mentor, Alicia Hernandez, did not respond to interview requests by deadline.

Reaping in the benefits

As a five-year IISME veteran, Topham has reaped many benefits, including collaborating with 170-plus teachers from different grade levels; participating in workshops to improve teaching techniques; and experiencing the work cultures of different companies each year, he said.

Applied Materials is also an IISME vet, having joined the program as a corporate host 13 years ago. "Since then, we've had 63 teachers come through the company," said Espinola. She believes that Robinson's new perspective following her summer fellowship "will allow her to better prepare her students for possible careers in a high-tech corporation, which will translate into a better prepared future work force for us."

As IISME prepares for its 24th year of offering companies and teachers win-win situations, executive director Jennifer Bruckner summed it up: "We are delighted to be able to provide this invaluable professional-development experience for so many Bay Area local teachers."

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