Archive for the ‘Featured Articles’ Category

Summer Spotlight: Teacher Internship at Raytheon Missile Systems

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

As part of the Summer Workation Celebrating Summer Contest, we will be featuring a number of Summer Spotlights. These Summer Spotlights will feature some of the exciting things teachers have done and can do during the summer months. We hope that these posts can help teachers learn about some of the summer jobs and opportunities available to them. This spotlight features Cassi LaFaye. Cassi participated in an internship with Raytheon Missile Systems sponsored by a collaboration between the University of Arizona, the UA’s Southern Arizona Science & Math Internship Center and the nonprofit Tucson Values Teachers organization.


Cassi LaFaye, Marana High School science teacher

This past summer I worked as a teacher intern at Raytheon Missile Systems as part of the internship program headed by the Southern Arizona Science and Math Internship Center at the University of Arizona’s College of Education. At the conclusion of my 3-year commitment, I will earn a Master of Arts in Teaching and Teacher Education with a focus on science education. My goals: become the kind of teacher that inspires kids to learn more outside of my classroom and steer kids into science and engineering careers.

At the beginning of the summer, I questioned what my contribution would be to Raytheon. My bachelor’s degree is in physical science, so I had a chemistry and physics background, but had never taken engineering courses. I went into the internship as a researcher, studying the scientists and engineers I met.

Of special interest to me were the differences between how science is done in the workplace and how science is done in the classroom. And, with the help of the curriculum course I took over the summer, I was able to make important changes in the lessons I was teaching so that they more reflected workplace science.

For example: in a typical classroom, the teacher provides lots of explanations before an experience. Students receive four days of lecture, worksheets, readings, videos, etc. (explanations) followed by one lab (experience). In the workplace, engineers have many experiences that lead them to an explanation.

Of course the classroom has limitations. With only a 55- minute day and limited resources, students do not receive the same experiences as workplace-scientists. However, the teacher can foster scientific thinking by allowing and encouraging kids to solve problems in their own creative way. This might mean that the students devise their own lab procedures, or that I accept more than one right answer to a problem, or that students lead the direction of the next experience by their questioning.

My first assignment at Raytheon was with a team of engineers that run the computer simulations for the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. I was not able to go into their lab because it contained classified information, but I was able to sit in on their meetings and listen to the thought process of these problem solvers. This diverse group of engineers each had specific expertise that made their contribution to the team valuable.

I realized that my students also learn more when they feel they are a valuable contributing partner in the lab experiences. Sometimes, that means giving different students information that the others do not have so that the success of the whole lab is dependent on collaboration among the entire group.

My second assignment at Raytheon was in the chemical analysis lab. Here I felt a little more in my element. I was able to see equipment first-hand that I have only talked about during discussions of atomic structure like the Scanning Electron Microscope. I got to identify substances based on their physical and chemical properties by using equipment that can heat or cool samples to extreme temperatures, equipment that uses infrared light, and other equipment that measures viscosity.

But more importantly, as a teacher, I gained insight as to how a high school science teacher impacts students. I heard stories from some of the chemists that loved science in high school and they described what they like about it. “I remember this one lab where . . .” or “My teacher told me . . .” Other chemists talked about how they hated chemistry in high school and the only reason they were in their current job was because of mentors in the military. Obviously, teachers’ words can cause kids to not like science, or school in general.

This school year began with sharing my internship experiences with my students. My experiences at Raytheon gave me a little credibility and “cool-ness” at the beginning, but kids are smart and it doesn’t go far if my classroom is boring. If I am not making the changes in the classroom, and not providing the experiences for them, they are not benefiting from my internship experiences.

This internship experience supports Marana High School’s goals of increasing rigor and relevance in the classroom. People have asked me if I would like to eventually work at Raytheon. My answer, “No, I am a teacher.” I love Marana High School and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. My daughter graduated in “08 as part of the Fine and Performing Arts academy. My sons will graduate in ’10, ’12, ’14, ’16. My senior is in the Business and Human Services academy, my sophomore is in the MedStart academy. I am pretty sure my 8th grader will choose Science and Tech academy because he is my little creative scientist. My 6th grader? Too soon to tell, but whatever he chooses, I know his MHS teachers will support his interests. And my internship experiences last summer and these next two summers will improve how I direct learning in the Science and Technology academy.

I don’t build missiles, but Raytheon is helping me build creative, problem solving minds.

Leave a comment by February 27, 2010 to enter the Celebrating Summer Contest!

  • What do you think about this Summer Spotlight?
  • Have you participated in a similar experience?
  • What would your ideal summer growth opportunity be (e.g., volunteer work, study/travel abroad, internship/externship, fellowship)?

Summer Spotlight: Create An Online Educational Video with Brightstorm

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

As part of the Summer Workation Celebrating Summer Contest, we will be featuring a number of Summer Spotlights. These Summer Spotlights will feature some of the exciting things teachers have done and can do during the summer months. We hope that these posts can help teachers learn about some of the summer jobs and opportunities available to them. The third Summer Spotlight features Brightstorm – an amazing organization that finds the best teachers, films them teaching, and builds learning solutions around great teacher videos.

Brightstorm Logo

Brightstorm’s Mission

Our mission at Brightstorm is to be the best place in the world to learn. We believe that great learning starts with great teaching. So, we find the best teachers, film them teaching, and build learning solutions around those great teacher videos.

Our current solutions target the high-school age curriculum, including Math, SAT, ACT and AP subjects. Some of our products are free and some are paid. For instance, Brightstorm Math (which includes over 2,000 videos on every topic from Algebra through Calculus) is free. With Brightstorm Math, any registered user can watch as many math videos as many times as they like. Our paid products include test preparation programs, such as our SAT, ACT and AP courses. Great teaching forms the core of these comprehensive programs, which also include practice quizzes, downloadable materials, full-length practice exams and more.

These solutions are just the beginning of Brightstorm’s journey to revolutionize the way people learn. The power of a great teacher in action is undeniable. With Brightstorm, every learner can have access to the best teachers, wherever and whenever they want.

Check out this video to learn more about our free Math videos:

Teachers and Brightstorm

As our mission states, we believe that great learning starts with great teaching. Great teachers are at the core of our learning solution.

During the summer, Brightstorm trains and films teachers in our studios located in San Francisco, California. At the beginning of the summer, Brightstorm supports teachers in designing a comprehensive curriculum and engaging lessons. We try to foster a collaborative environment where teachers and curriculum specialists support each other in the content development and filming.

During the academic year, Brightstorm serves as a free resource to math teachers and their students. We have created a blog specifically for teachers ( so that they can easily find and share our video resources with their students through copying links and embedding videos on their classroom or personal websites.

What Teachers Say About Their Experience at Brightstorm

“One of the things I learned most from doing the Brightstorm videos was the importance of using proper math vocabulary. When I work with teenagers, I tend to adopt some of their informal slang like “the plussing number” instead of “the y-intercept” in a y=mx+b equation or “the answer” rather than “the quotient” in polynomial division. Since my work on the video camera, I have been more aware of the language I use and asked that students use more proper vocabulary themselves in my classroom.

Additionally, the Brightstorm work got me thinking about how teaching math will be changing with new technologies coming into schools. I have joined a professional development committee at my school called “Classroom 2020″ to envision what teaching and learning will look like in the future- perhaps using videos for tutorials, like Brightstorm, rather than teachers having office hours.

The most rewarding part of my summer experience was having a project that I worked on relatively briefly continue to benefit my teaching and my students’ learning throughout the year. I find that students and parents are extremely receptive to having instructional opportunities available to them outside of the school day.”

Next Steps

Brightstorm will be expanding into other high school help subjects including Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Earth Sciences. If you are interested in pursuing an opportunity with Brightstorm, please see our job post at Summer Workation:

  • What do you think about this Summer Spotlight?
  • Do you have any experience with online learning?
  • What would your ideal summer growth opportunity be (e.g., volunteer work, study/travel abroad, internship/externship, fellowship)?

Leave a comment by February 27, 2010 to enter the Celebrating Summer Contest!

Summer Spotlight: Summer School Teaching Experience

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

As part of the Summer Workation Celebrating Summer Contest, we will be featuring a number of Summer Spotlights. These Summer Spotlights will showcase some of the exciting things teachers have done and can do during the summer months. We hope that these posts can help teachers learn about some of the summer jobs and opportunities available to them. The second Summer Spotlight features a summer school experience.


February 20, 2010

The summer after my first year teaching, I took on dual responsibilities. Not only was I teaching but I was also 9th Grade Level Chair. This means that along with teaching a 9th grade course on character development, I played a role similar to that of a dean; I led weekly meetings, managed the other 9th grade teachers, and took care of any behavioral issues that arose. Classes took place the last two weeks of July and went from 8AM to 3PM. Teaching duties occurred five hours of the day, while grade level chair duties varied anywhere from two to four hours a day – it was near impossible to plan everything that occurred, especially with 110 9th graders. My physical stamina was tested, as was my mental stability but it was all worth it. This summer was groundbreaking for me. It was an amazing way to get to know the students that I would be teaching in the fall before the school year began, and it was also an amazing opportunity to obtain leadership experience. Managing students is one thing, but managing adults is definitely a growing experience.

My summer experience helped me to grow as an educator as well as a mentor and leader. The relationships I formed with my students during summer school carried over into the school year. I usually teach ninth grade biology, so I enjoyed teaching a character development course over the summer that allowed me to get to know my students on a more personal level. This helped me in my Biology classroom as I was able to motivate my students by appealing to what I had learned of their hopes and dreams during this character development class. Establishing a positive culture where my students celebrate each other’s successes and feel comfortable to be themselves during the summer also made it easier for me to jump right into academics at the start of the regular school year. Serving as the grade level leader over the summer was a perfect way to obtain experience for my Grade Level Chair duties during the regular school year. It served as a smooth transition allowing me to not only become comfortable with the duties that come with the job, but it also allowed me to practice balancing my different positions before the year started in full swing.

Reem Semaan

9th Grade Biology Teacher/9th Grade Level Chair

YES Prep Southwest

Summer Spotlight - Summer School Teaching Experiences

  • What do you think about this Summer Spotlight?
  • Do you teach summer school or seek out alternative teaching positions during the summer?
  • What would your ideal summer growth opportunity be (e.g., volunteer work, study/travel abroad, internship/externship, fellowship)?
  • Leave a comment between Feb 17-27, 2010 to enter the Celebrating Summer Contest!

Summer Spotlight: Toyota International Teacher Program

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

As part of the Summer Workation Celebrating Summer Contest, we will be featuring a number of Summer Spotlight. These Summer Spotlights will showcase some of the exciting things teachers have done and can do during the summer months. We hope that these posts can help teachers learn about some of the summer jobs and opportunities available to them, The first Summer Spotlight features an international opportunity for teachers.

Toyota Image

When was the last time you were able to travel abroad and experience foreign cultures with like-minded educators who share your insatiable thirst for knowledge and sincere passion for teaching? When was the last time you embarked on a personal journey to promote global awareness and understanding? Perhaps you would like to take part in such enriching experiences more often but just don’t know where to look? If so, the Toyota International Teacher Program might be just what you’ve been looking for.

Established in 1998 and administered by the Institute of International Education, each year the Toyota International Teacher Program sends U.S. educators to various international destinations like Japan, the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica for intensive, high-quality, two-week study tours. Through these unique professional development trips, teachers explore important cultural, social and environmental themes in a global context and focus their energies and skills on the creation of interdisciplinary, hands-on, and solution-focused approaches to the pressing issues they will experience firsthand.

At the core of the Toyota International Teacher Program is a desire to promote global connectedness, and instill in teachers a sense of responsibility to actively contribute solutions to environmental problems and empower their students to do the same. The Toyota International Teacher Program is open to all U.S. educators and teacher-librarians who teach in U.S. schools in any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. If you are interested in participating but still wondering how you would finance your trip, wonder no more. If selected to participate in this program, your international study tour is fully funded through a generous grant provided by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. All you need to do is apply and prepare yourself for a truly unique professional development experience.

Are you ready to embark on your two-week study tour? The 2010 Toyota International Teacher Program to the Galapagos Islands is set to take place November 20th – December 4th, 2010 and applications are being accepted online (the deadline to apply is May 19th, 2010)! Program participants can expect to gain valuable insight into the human impact on this fragile ecosystem that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. During the two week trip, participants will have the opportunity to attend panel discussions and lectures, and interact with biologists, conservationists as well as local citizens and teachers. In the past teachers have also had the opportunity to travel back with their students during the summer.

For more information, and to apply to the Toyota International Teacher Program, check out the Summer Workation listing by visiting

This video will tell you more about one teacher who was selected for the Toyota International Teacher Program.

  • What do you think about this Summer Spotlight?
  • Would you like to apply to the Toyota International Teacher Program? Why or why not?
  • Have you participated in a similar study abroad/international professional development experience before?
  • What would your ideal summer growth opportunity be (e.g., volunteer work, study/travel abroad, internship/externship, fellowship)?

Leave a comment between Feb 17-27, 2010 to enter the Celebrating Summer Contest!

College Confidant: A New Type of College Counseling

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Applying to college can be a tough and stressful process for students, but the process can be equally demanding for high school teachers! Teachers play a critical role in the admissions process by reviewing essays, providing preparation for entrance exams, helping with college selection and relieving anxiety.

As much as teachers do, there is not a lot of transparency in the college process. As a result, students often make suboptimal college decisions due to a lack of information. There just are not many good college advising sources out there. Guidance counselors are often overworked and detached from the admissions process at top schools. Private counselors are prohibitively expensive (generally $150/hour) and also know little about the unique identity of each school. This lack of information is particularly problematic since college is such an important and expensive part of a student’s life.


College Confidant a new web-based counseling service aspires to make high-quality, affordable college counseling available for all college bound students. College Confidant has created an online peer-to-peer model that will radically improve the way college counseling works. College students (called Confidants) create an online profile, determine areas of expertise and set a price for their services. High school students can log on to the website, search the extensive and diverse network of College Confidants, and choose the best fit based on college, background, and interests. Confidants and students connect over a number of services such as: the phone, Skype, Gchat, AIM etc. The College Confidant online scheduling and rating systems ensure students can easily connect with high-quality confidants. In one hour students can: look over an essay, do a mock interview, think about application strategies or just ask general questions about the college admissions process. Parents, who are often overwhelmed with the college admissions process can also reserve Confidant sessions to quickly learn how they can best help their children through the college admissions process. This year College Confidant will have over 100 students in their network from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.

At only around $10-20 an hour College Confidant is considerably more affordable than other private college admissions consulting options. Through partnerships with non-profits, donations, and College Confidants willing to provide pro bono services, College Confidant hopes to reach out to groups underrepresented in the college admissions process.

Summer Workation is excited by this new college counseling model! The peer-to-peer model also has a lot of interesting implications for teachers. By leveraging rapid developments in telecommunications technologies educators around the world will have an incredible new resource. Teachers, regardless of where they are, can book Confidant sessions for their classrooms. Ultimately, College Confidant provides a new resources for both students and teachers to gain more transparency and support during the college admissions process. If you know anyone looking for college admissions help, tell them to check out

Tucson Values Teachers (TVT) Offers Industry Internship Program to STEM Educators

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Recently, Ms. Jacquelyn Jackson, Executive Director of Tucson Values Teachers (TVT), joined the Summer Workation team as an advisory member. Not only do we wish to welcome her and thank her for the years of experience that she brings to Summer Workation, but we also want to take this opportunity to direct attention to the valuable resources that she and her team at Tucson Values Teachers work so hard to make available to educators in the southern Arizona region.

Tucson Values Teachers is a regional initiative that emphasizes the crucial role that teachers play and the profound impact that they have in our communities. One particular resource that they offer is a unique industry internship program that provides teachers with an opportunity to earn a graduate degree while simultaneously experiencing first-hand the technical side of various industries in engineering.

TVT, in partnership with the University of Arizona Department of Education, created an innovative masters program for K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educators that also includes a high-profile industry internship. During three consecutive summers, teachers who participate in the program work alongside scientists, mathematicians and engineers for four days each week at one of the area’s leading industries. Prominent corporations such as Raytheon, BioVigilant, Texas Instruments, Sundt and General Plasma have agreed to provide the teachers with paid summer internships in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The four-day work schedule is designed to allow time on Fridays for teachers to take courses that count towards their master’s degree.

Like Summer Workation, Tucson Values Teachers recognizes the importance of providing educators with summer opportunities that stimulate, challenge and engage them on a higher level. Summer Workation would like to thank the TVT team for their efforts and for working in conjunction with the University of Arizona Department of Education to create such a wonderful industry internship program.

To learn more about Tucson Values Teachers and their industry internship program, visit their website,

Meet the Newest Members of the Summer Workation Team

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Summer Workation is proud to introduce the seven talented interns who will be with us for the summer of ‘09. Each intern, highly qualified in his or her own way, comes to us with a diverse background and brings a wealth of experience, fresh ideas and dedication to Summer Workation’s cause. Their contributions will no doubt be invaluable and we are thrilled to have them join the team. We hope that all our readers will take a minute to get to know each of these brilliant individuals through the short bios that follow.

  • Sarah Ngu is a sophomore at Columbia University and is currently figuring out her place in this world. She’s tentatively decided on majoring in English and Sociology, picking up Chinese and French, and going into Journalism after graduating. She has come a long way in life (she thinks), and much of that progress is due to the wonderful teachers in her life. By interning for Summer Workation, Sarah hopes to do something in return for teachers beyond the token thank-you card.
  • Sungbo Shim is a junior at Columbia College pursuing a major in Economics-Philosophy and a minor in Mathematics. Currently, he is taking a leave of absence and is working as an instructor and educational consultant at Gen Academy, an SAT prep and academic enrichment academy. Last summer, Sungbo had the opportunity to work as a Research Analyst at J&JIQ, a hedge fund in Toronto, Canada. On campus, he is President of Students for North Korean Awareness, a group calls attention to the human rights and nuclear weapons crisis in North Korea. He also leads the Korean Drum Troupe, a performance group focused on providing cultural awareness through Korean percussion. In his free time, Sungbo likes to play guitar, listen to music, and hang out with friends.
  • Angel Lam is a senior at Barnard College, Columbia University, and has almost fulfilled the requirements to obtain her BAs in Economics and Psychology. Originally from Hong Kong, she enjoys the wonderful things in life, such as food and a good night of sleep.
  • Shailesh Otari is a current student of MS(IT)-MBA(Finance) dual degree at Boston University. Prior to Boston University, Shailesh worked with Syntel Consulting Inc., an IT-Knowledge Process Outsourcing firm serving Fortune 500 clients. Having worked in multiple countries, Shailesh has a strong understanding of working with teams of diverse backgrounds and experience. His leadership at Syntel involved aligning goals of business drivers and technology implementers. To be able to further gel his technological expertise with business acumen, Shailesh chose to do his MBA. A quick and active learner, he hopes to be able to leverage his learnings from B-school and put them in practice to add value to society at large. Shailesh holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Engineering from University of Mumbai, India. He is passionate about new IT ventures and entrepreneurship in emerging economies.
  • Daniel Sucher is a student in the Joint Program between Columbia University and Jewish Theological Seminary. At Columbia, he plans to major in Urban Studies with a specialization in History, and at Jewish Theological Seminary, he will major in Modern Jewish Studies. Prior to entering college, Daniel spent a year studying and volunteering abroad in Israel. This included working as a teacher’s assistant in a school for the handicapped, and tutoring new immigrants in English at an elementary school. Daniel hopes to become further involved in social entrepreneurship and to one day start his own project to help make the world a better place.
  • Bryan Liou is a rising sophomore at Columbia University and is currently working towards a B.S. in Operations Research and a minor in Economics. Outside of his studies, he has been very active in tutoring, including both public and private. His experience spans from being employed by large corporations and small companies to being a self-employed tutor. On campus, Bryan is active in the EconSociety and hopes to be involved in finance after graduation.
  • Damion Harrikissoon is a junior at Columbia University in the City of New York. As a member of the Class of 2011, he is currently working on achieving a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Although he aspires to pursue a career in the corporate business world, Damion is committed to his work on various community service and community building initiatives. Most recently, he has served for a year in NYC as a volunteer Health Educator for Peer Health Exchange.


Sharing Summer Workation

Friday, March 20th, 2009


We have been taking Summer Workation on the road to showcase our social enterprise. So far, Summer Workation has been met with great success – described below.

Harvard i3 – Led by Troy Murrell, Summer Workation was named a finalist in the i3 innovation challenge. Over the course of the competition we put together some great marketing/promotional materials that describe Summer Workation. We also made some great contacts (from venture capitalists to academics) that were extremely interested in our program.

MIT MABPC – Summer Workation was recently named a semi-finalist in the MIT mid-Atlantic business contest. We are going down to Washington DC in May to present our idea in the finals. We will keep you posted with the results of this competition.

We welcome these opportunities to share Summer Workation with others and hope the meaningful conversations we have had will only work to further improve the SW model! If you know of any other individuals/organizations we can share our idea with, do let us know!

Summer Workation Wins the Ideablob Contest!

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

The results are in and Summer Workation has become the official winner of the Ideablob Business Contest!! This means we win funding to launch Summer Workation!!!

We are both excited and humbled by this recent news. We are excited because this seed money will allow us to turn SW into a reality! But at the same time we are humbled because we know it would not have been possible without the support of our great family and friends.

Thank you all for your incredible ongoing support!! Make sure to sign up for our newsletter (on the right) to hear the latest SW news. If you want to get involved with Summer Workation e-mail us: