If you have been keeping up with our podcasts and blogs so far, you may have heard us use this term before: edupreneur. We are talking about the fusing of educational and business-related concepts, where teachers own businesses that either enrich their own teaching skills OR that can help liaise with industry to create opportunities for students in a particular career. You can check out what some edupreneurs do here.
Most often, teachers are relegated to the four walls of their classrooms, instructing students in required curriculum to prepare them for the next academic adventure; but, an edupreneur recognizes that he/she grows as an educator when creating a company or working outside the classroom in some capacity to create credibility with a particular industry.
While the AIA focuses on the developing aspiring young minds with a bent in engineering or aerospace through distinctive STEM experiences, founders Kevin Simmons and Shawna Christenson also work to inspire teachers to don the entrepreneurial cloak in addition to encouraging students to employ a business mindset. Through professional development or consulting (and sometimes with a stipend from a grant), teachers are encouraged to join professional organizations in their content or passion areas in order to grow as an educator, but to also become involved in their larger community of experts. One does not have to be involved specifically in aerospace in order to be an edupreneur; instead, it is about finding a side hustle that takes your love of teaching to another level.
Communication has always been an important part of teaching or even business development, and has only become more important with the increase in tech tools and social media. Our AIA students usually start as either a "talkie" or "techie"-- meaning they have a preference for the hands-on work of building space craft or they enjoy sharing with or talking about their passions. But, over time, and because it's one of our goals, our students often become an ideal blend-- adept with both content and communication. This aspect of communication is important in all careers, of course, but there is a real need for the engineers of the future to be able to communicate their knowledge in a clear and concise way. Check out this blog about the importance of communications in STEM here).
Now that you are more familiar with the breakdown of edupreneurship, you as a teacher may be wondering how to get involved. There are many ways for teachers to augment their current career, and it is never too late to begin. Due to shifts in education post COVID, many teachers may already be heading towards this path already! On Episode 31 of BLUE-SKY Learning's Let's Go To Space Podcast, we got to hear from our very own Aerospace and Innovation Academy's co-founder and long-time educator Shawna Christenson. Self-described as a "talkie" in the edupreneurship world, Shawna holds a BS in secondary English education and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, and has been teaching well over 20 years in both the public and private sector of education. She was chosen as the National Speech and Debate Association's Middle School Coach of the Year in 2020, and believes in taking communications beyond the classroom and into the real world through legislative advocacy and technical writing with her students. Additionally, she is a member in several aerospace organizations, serves on officer's boards of several, and enjoys producing their weekly podcast and managing the communications for the after-school program.
In this episode, we got to hear how Ms. Christenson got her start in teaching, and her subsequent involvement in the comms side of STEM. If you would like to hear more in-depth about Ms. Christenson's experiences in the educational world, or would like to listen to the other incredibly talented individuals we have interviewed before, check out our Let's Go To Space Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple and Spotify.