Jacksonville educators working to address critical teacher shortage

The buzz of a 3D printer and hum of a robot on wheels are common sounds inside the Solve, Tinker, Explore and Play Lab at the University of North Florida.

They're among many pieces of technology at the new lab that aim to bolster interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields -- in both students and future teachers.

“It really prepares us teachers with how to work with the equipment and also how to apply it to our classroom so our students can have that hands-on learning,” Taylor Johnson said.

Johnson, a senior in UNF’s education program, said science and math are important areas for creating lifelong learners.

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“I think that’s something they’re teaching us here at UNF – to open the mind of students and have them engaged and doing a lot of hands-on experiments so that they love learning and are more involved in their learning,” she said.

UNF professors say the building blocks and toys inside the STEP Lab make learning fun but could also help address the critical teacher shortage in STEM fields.

“If we can get preservice teachers more interested in technology, more comfortable with the technology, they might see that absolutely, they can do it,” Daniel Dinsmore, a UNF educational psychology professor, said.

A new teaching academy offered by Duval County Public Schools could also help fill the gap.

The DCPS Early College Teacher Academy is on the consent agenda for the Feb. 5 board meeting. Courses would be offered at Westside and First Coast high school.

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“There’s so much that you don’t know before you go into it,” Johnson said.

“Having that one on one with the students -- I think that’s the best way to learn.” Johnson said she wants to teach in Nassau County after she graduates.

She said one of her primary goals is to stress the importance of teaching, leading and inspiring the next generation.

You can read more about UNF's STEP Lab on their website.