SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller met with Eastern Panhandle educators Monday to get their views on the connection between teaching math and science and the country’s economic future.
Rockefeller, D-W.Va., held a roundtable discussion at Shepherd University’s Scarborough Library with 17 area educators, from kindergarten teachers to Shepherd University department chairs.
Rockefeller said teaching math and science “is basic to the country’s future. Some 80 percent of the fastest-growing occupations depend on knowledge of math and science. High-tech jobs pay 86 percent more than the average private sector wage nationwide.”
Rockefeller said the Senate recently appropriated $45 billion to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.
The country has to keep students interested in science, technology, engineering and math to prepare for the high-tech jobs of the future, Rockefeller said.
“That’s why I worked so hard to get the reauthorization act signed into law,” he said.
It’s hard to get that message across to the newly elected Republican freshmen conservatives in the House of Representatives.
“This is the kind of thing they love to cut,” he said. “It’s a crazy Congress. They’ve already obliterated funding for NPR (National Public Radio). That’s what’s been happening.”
The new Republican freshmen in the House don’t care about a second term, he said.
“They came to cut government programs. They don’t care who gets hurt because they won’t run for a second term,” he said.
He acknowledged that cuts are needed, “but they have to be cut appropriately.”
The House cuts still have to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama can veto them, he said.
Rockefeller asked how teachers can get their students to accept the concepts of math and science.
Kathy Blue, who teaches at T.A. Lowery Elementary School in Charles Town, W.Va., said she brings adults into her class to talk about their jobs and the role math plays in them.
“They can see people and the jobs they do,” she said.
Sherri Mackey, a Charles Town Middle School math teacher, involves her students so they learn that math can be fun, “to get them to interact with the person (teacher) up front.”
Rockefeller said not all students have computers at home.
“If they can’t do their homework on a computer, they fall behind in class the next day,” he said.
Other participants agreed that textbooks are not the only answer, that if teachers rely only on books instead of a personal touch with hands-on learning, then students won’t be inspired to learn.