Published: Jan. 12, 2021

Local educators welcome fresh perspectives, thoughtful virtual STEM lessons from CU Teach students

CU Teach classCU Teach class meeting fall semester

Last fall, as many CU Boulder classes moved to remote settings, Elizabeth Chambers found herself missing the community-building aspect of her campus life before COVID-19. While her experience was not unique, one of her programs and courses stood out as a welcome change from the “new normal.” 

Chambers enrolled in a one-credit education course, Step 1: Inquiry Approaches to Teaching STEM course (EDUC 2020), to get her feet wet working in the K-12 classrooms. Chambers loved working with elementary students and teachers to break up the monotony of online classes and social distancing, and she appreciated that her Step 1 instructor made attempts to keep the course safely meeting in-person when possible and permissible.

“It was great to have a class that sometimes met in person and to be able to work with classmates in a socially distanced setting,” Chambers said. 

“Before Step 1, I had an interest in being a middle school math teacher, and this class really affirmed my passion—both my professor and mentor teacher were key to this. I am planning to take Step 2 and another education class this semester, and I can’t wait to dive deeper.”

The Step 1 and Step 2 education courses invite CU Boulder STEM majors to explore teaching and work with elementary classrooms. The courses are part of CU Teach, a nationally renowned math and science teacher education program offered in collaboration between the CU Boulder School of Education, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Engineering and Applied Science.

CU Teach offers a pathway to teacher licensure for future secondary (grades 7-12) teachers, a certificate in STEM education, and/or one-credit, once-per-week courses like Step 1 and Step 2 that are open to all CU Boulder science, engineering and mathematics majors interested in working with K-12 classrooms.

With many of the K-12 schools switched to remote or hybrid learning settings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CU Teach partner schools and teachers have been particularly grateful to have support from CU Boulder students this past year.

Nancy Chiu, a teacher at Douglas Elementary in Boulder Valley School District, has been working with CU Teach students for eight years, and she found that her CU Teach students handled remote-teaching technology with ease.

Students in her 4th grade class and their families have committed to learning remotely for the full school year. While that setting is not without challenges, Chiu said she is always trying to think of new and fun ways to engage her students, and the guest STEM lessons from CU Teach students brought an exciting change of pace for her fourth graders through thoughtfully crafted, hands-on lessons for the children to conduct at home. 

“The CU Teach students brought a needed fresh and exciting vibe to my (Google Classroom) Meets,” Chiu said. “How cool for (my students) to meet and talk to real college students? My students knew that whenever the CU Teach students were present, the day was going to be a blast.”

Elizabeth Chambers studentsElizabeth Chambers


For one of the CU Teach guest lessons in Chiu’s class, families picked up materials at school so students could work on the lesson from home, and another lesson was “beautifully demonstrated” by the CU Teach students including masterful pauses at various points for understanding and questioning from students, she said. 

“My CU Teach students were a true joy to work with,” Chiu said. “They have a natural teaching quality rarely seen in brand new teachers. It was a delight to observe their skills and how much confidence they have gained with their experience in teaching and writing lesson plans.”

This fall was Phyllis Ashe’s first experience working with CU Teach students, but it will not be the last. Ashe, the STEM Coordinator for the Innovation Center in the St. Vrain Valley School District, found that the CU Teach students skillfully helped her partner teachers and their students navigate bumps in the hybrid teach model withsome students in class and others attending virtually. 

“The CU students had never taught before, yet they fell right in step with all three lessons being highly successful,” she said. “There were all kinds of technical issues, and the CU students managed by keeping calm, tending to the tech issue and continuing on with the lesson without a hitch! It worked out quite well for everyone involved as the cooperating teachers reported high praise for each lesson taught by the CU Teach students.”

The same can be said for CU Boulder students enrolled in CU Teach Step 1 classes who get to share in the joy of STEM education lessons. Chambers said working with the children is her Step 1 is one of the reasons she is returning to more education courses this spring and may pursue teaching licensure.  

“I loved getting to know the kids in my class and watching them get super excited about our lesson plans,” Chambers said. “Especially in the remote setting, the kids were super excited about hands-on activities.”

CU Teach logo

 There is still space available in Spring 2021 sections of Step 1 (EDUC 2020) and Step 2 (EDUC 2030) CU Teach courses. Visit the Buff Portal to learn more. The application deadline for the fall 2021 teacher licensure programs is Feb. 15. Learn more