Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Summer Spotlight: My Summer Workation in Mexico

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

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 Summer Workation’s own Lisa Broom. Lisa learned about the Mexican education system while taking an intensive Spanish language course.


Cuernavaca, Mexico is located in Central Mexico, about an hour south of Mexico City. A year round temperature of eighty degrees as well as its proximity to both famous ruins and beautiful beaches made this site a very attractive choice when I weighed my options of where to spend my summer. However, Cuernavaca’s main draw for me was an intensive Spanish language course combined with a seminar for educators that explored the Mexican education system.

For four weeks, I attended a small language school, studying advanced Spanish conversation and grammar for four hours a day. In the afternoons, I also participated in a seminar conducted in Spanish on education in Mexico. Topics included the history of Mexico’s educational system, current laws and statistics, curricula, classroom practices, and comparisons of public and private schools. As part of the program, I also had the opportunity to visit an urban elementary school and observe several classes.

While I was attending classes I lived with a host family. My homestay was set up through the school at which I was studying. I lived with a single woman and her daughter, who had recently graduated high school. My family cooked my meals, showed me things to do in the city and also traveled outside of Cuernavaca with me. Living with a family helped me to acclimate to the new location and culture quickly, and gave me access to experiences I may not have been able to find on my own. During long conversations over meals where I was able to eat homemade local cuisine, I learned about the political and economic climate of the community. My host sister introduced me to restaurants, parks and markets. My family not only provided me with friendship and support, but also a critical connection to the local culture.


Studying and living in Mexico gave me the chance to pursue personal interests as well as grow professionally. I majored in International Studies in college and have always loved learning about different cultures and places. Using my summer break to live and travel outside the U.S. reenergized and refreshed me for the next school year. It also helped me to develop as a teacher. As a bilingual elementary teacher in Houston, Texas, I teach students whose families have recently immigrated to the United States from Latin America. I communicate with most of my students’ parents in Spanish. My classes and conversations with my host family gave me practice that helped me to better communicate with parents when I returned. The course I took on education in Mexico enhanced my communication and relationships with parents because I better understood the system that they knew, and could identify the aspects of my school’s education system that they needed the most help navigating. During my observations at a dual-language school, I learned new techniques to use with English language learners. Studying in Mexico gave me an opportunity to combine personal and professional interests in order to have an enjoyable and productive summer.

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: 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)?

Teachers, What Would You Like to Do Next Summer?

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Now, this may seem like an odd question to be asked considering how early it is in the school year, but it’s an important question for teachers to consider nonetheless. Although summer 2009 just ended, and summer 2010 is still somewhere far off on the distant horizon, teachers may find it worthwhile to begin thinking about what potential opportunities are available to them and which ones they would actually like to pursue next summer.

During the summer months, teachers have the unique opportunity to partake in a variety of activities that engage, stimulate and challenge them. Some teachers opt to travel and explore the world during this time away from the classroom. Others pursue graduate degrees, work summer jobs or participate in professional development opportunities. However, the reality is that due to the heavy workload during the academic year, teachers cannot start thinking about their summer plans until the very end of the school year — usually around April or May. We at Summer Workation aspire to change this!

Our hope is that this time around Summer Workation will help teachers proactively research summer opportunities much earlier in the school year — as early as November. The reason for this is due to the fact that deadlines for many fellowships, internships/externships, jobs, etc., occur in December or January, which is months before most teachers will even begin to realistically think about their options for the summer. Summer Workation has been working with host organizations to develop the most efficient recruitment deadlines. As you may know, our mission is to assist teachers with finding growth opportunities that correspond to their interests and skills. However, we have come to realize that when teachers begin to consider their summertime options in April or May, they miss out on hundreds of beneficial and exciting opportunities.


More Teachers Taking Nontraditional Paths Into Classrooms

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A new trend has been developing in recent years: an increasing number of teachers without traditional education degrees have been entering public school classrooms across the country. These nontraditional teachers, who are enlisted to fill teaching vacancies by popular programs such as Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, bring expertise, knowledge and experience in subject areas that traditional education schools just don’t focus on. Many believe that these nontraditional teachers with their diverse backgrounds are better positioned to inspire students in the public school system to reach for new levels of success.

Learn more about how these nontraditional teachers are received in Indiana classrooms here!

Teachers Experience Zero Gravity Aboard G-Force One

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Recently, thirty-five or so math and science teachers got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience and conduct simple experiments in a weightless environment. The teachers, who were all chosen to take part in the Weightless Flights of Discovery program sponsored by Northrop Grumman, boarded a specially outfitted Boeing 727 dubbed G-Force One, and experienced what zero gravity felt like as the plane performed calculated aerobatic maneuvers tens of thousands of feet in the air. Aboard the aircraft, teachers simulated various experiments that their students had suggested in the weeks leading up to the flight. Not only did these teachers get an incredible opportunity, but they also were able to share this experience in the classroom and ignite once again their students’ passion for math and science.

Learn more about these teachers’ amazing story here!

Introducing our Workation Portal!

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Summer Workation is working hard to select the teachers for our pilot program. While we will only be able to serve a limited number of teachers through our pilot program this year, we have another service that can help every teacher create his or her summer plans!

Introducing our Workation Portal! This new portal will allow teachers to easily search and apply for workation opportunities. Employers can post opportunities for free and browse through select parts of teachers’ resumes. You can always access the job board at:


Some job board tips:


  • Sign up for a free teacher account here: Teacher Account Signup
  • Post your resume. This way as employers sign up for the site they can find you!
  • Check back often. We will constantly be adding new opportunities!


  • Sign up for a free employer account here: Employer Account Signup
  • Post your opportunities for free online and accept application through our portal
  • Maximize your visibility by purchasing a premium posting

We are still in the beta phase of our workation portal, so be sure to report any bugs you encounter at

The 2009 Summer Workation Pilot Program

Monday, February 16th, 2009

 Hey Teachers!

Are you looking for something to do this summer?

Try taking a Summer Workation. A workation will give you:

  • New growth opportunities
  • Increased pay
  • A Breakup of your annual routine
  • A chance to try something you have always wanted to do
  • We plan to pilot the Summer Workation program for a select group of teachers this summer! If you are interested in working with us to set your summer plans please go here – Teacher Signup.

    We are looking for teachers with a diverse set of interests who are willing to give us feedback before and after their workations!


    Workation Idea Contest!

    Sunday, February 8th, 2009

    Summer Workation hopes to revolutionize the opportunities available to teachers over the summer!

    In order to do this, we have a two-pronged strategy:
    1) Catalogue existing summer opportunities
    2) Create new summer opportunities

    As we work with our first set of Summer Workation Teachers, we want to get your input! Take a second to give us your best workation ideas! Think of something new or let us know some great things teachers already do over the summer. The best workation idea (chosen by our illustrious board of advisers) will win a prize.

    Submit Your Idea Below