>> News from STP: STEM Teachers Get Firsthand Experience
News from STP: STEM Teachers Get Firsthand Experience
July 23, 2013
Many high school students do not know - or have thought about -
what they will do when they graduate. Some have never visited a
college, and are not aware of college choices. Most don't
understand that there could be career opportunities in their own
"Coming here and touring the site - it's eye opening," said Jill
Lowry, a chemistry teacher for Bay City High School and a Workforce
Industry Training (WIT) sponsor.
Lowry is one of four Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics (STEM) teachers who are visiting the site this summer.
STP hosts STEM teachers each summer as part of its Workforce
Development plan, coordinated by Clarence Fenner.
The effort is a partnership with the Nuclear Power Institute at
Texas A&M University and works to familiarize STEM teachers
with the nuclear industry and STP's career opportunities. The
teachers, in turn, pass on to their students their experience of
working at a nuclear energy facility, and the type of career
opportunities that are available.
About 400 to 500 workers will leave the South Texas Project over
the next five years - many of those retiring after more than 20
years with the company.
The teachers keep a rigorous schedule while at the plant,
learning everything it takes to become an STP employee.
"I'm amazed at how much security employees go through every
day," Lowry said. "I guess in my mind, I thought you would get your
card and then you would swipe it to get in and maybe have to update
it every once in a while.
The group was surprised at how open and honest the plant is
about past mistakes across the industry, and how it exchanges
lessons learned with other facilities.
"The transparency is amazing," said Sherry Martinez, a chemistry
teacher at Van Vleck High School and a POWERSET (Powerful
Opportunities for Women Eager and Ready for Science, Engineering,
and Technology) sponsor. "The fact that you hear what has happened
at other plants, and what can be done to prevent them from
happening again. Other industries don't talk about that to their
The group also was impressed with how seriously safety was
considered, especially radiological safety.
"We knew exactly what to expect," said Adrian Canales, a
geometry teacher for El Campo High School.
The cleanliness impressed Physics Teacher, Paul Guevarra from
Foster High School.
"I was struck with the idea that it has to be perfectly clean.
Foreign material is costly. Just the smallest amount can cause
millions of dollars worth of damage," Guevarra said. "It was
amazing to see what must be done to ensure foreign material is kept
All the teachers agreed that they were surprised at the variety
of positions that are available at STP.
"It's good to know that there's more available than an operator
position," Canales said. "It helps me explain to students that with
a two-year degree and a background in algebra or geometry, you can
have a career."
Jill Lowry, Sherry Martinez, Paul Guevarra and Adrian Canales
are area STEM teachers who participated in a workforce development
program that familiarizes science, technology, engineering and
mathematics teachers with the nuclear industry.