Five teachers from Clinton Community School District are back in the classroom with a new effective tool for the instructional toolbox: authentic workplace experience. Each educator took part in this summer’s STEM Teacher Externships Program and walked away with valuable work-based learning experiences to share with their students and apply to their curriculums. 

High school mathematics teacher Zach Mohr was placed with Zurn Elkay, a clean water products company, where he aided the engineering team in the development of a system to more efficiently bring parts to the manufacturing floor.

“I am enjoying the fact that I am being challenged to think differently than how I would from the day-to-day teaching that I normally do,” Mohr said. “I think we all can fall victim to our daily habits and norms in life. This experience has been so new to me, and every day, I feel that I am growing as an individual, as well as an educator.”

In 2009, the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships Program was created to foster partnerships between schools and local businesses. Teachers interested in the Externship Program commit to a five- to six-week, full-time position within local businesses to see real-world applications of STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This unique opportunity allows teachers to see the latest trends, equipment and processes within Iowa’s business and industry. All teachers earn a stipend of up to $5,000 as well as three graduate credits. Since the inception of the program, there have been more than 800 externships statewide.

In addition to Mohr’s externship, four other Clinton teachers partnered with local businesses for high-quality learning experiences. High school science and mathematics teacher Bill Feaster worked with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at the Maquoketa Wildlife Unit. Eighth grade mathematics teacher Eric Brown and high school mathematics teacher Albert Hayton both completed an externship at Custom-Pak, a plastic molds maker. Brown and Hayton worked together on capability studies, specifically establishing a database of statistics and calculations to evaluate if the manufacturing process for specific parts is statistically able to meet requirements and specifications of the customer. High school welding teacher Ted Lamb worked with M. A. Ford, a machining tools manufacturer, to develop guidelines for drafting and print creation and utilized multiple computer-aided design (CAD) drafting software

“The 2023 STEM Teacher Externships Program saw 82 teachers have immersive experiences with 67 different host businesses,” said Ann Gritzner, program coordinator for the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council at the Iowa Department of Education. “These teachers will each take their summer experiences back to the classroom to help bridge the gap between school and work. The more opportunities educators have to gain firsthand knowledge of the STEM workplace the better equipped they are to prepare our future workforce.”

“The program is very rewarding,” Lamb said. “I teach vocational classes, so getting first-hand experience of what employers are looking for is the best experience that I can take back to my classroom.”

To learn more about the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships Program or to get involved in the 2024 experience, visit