While it’s no secret that U.S. students often lag behind other nations in science test scores, educators often wonder what to do to narrow the gap.

For the last two years, Mike Kukuk, College of the Mainland director for contract training, has helped to educate teachers about the real-world applications and job possibilities in the science field. At the Texas Chemical Council’s Science Teachers and Industry workshop, Kukuk presented information about jobs in the petrochemical industry to 42 teachers from 16 different school districts in the greater Houston area.
With 33 years of experience in a petrochemical plant as an operator, trainer and supervisor, Kukuk is able to discuss the real-world applications of science and technology with those who influence students toward careers.
“I love presenting,” Kukuk said. “A big percentage of the audience has never spent time in a plant. They don’t have any idea how many jobs there are. Teachers appreciate that information so they can talk with their students about the applications of school and also jobs within their reach.”
Better-informed teachers will ultimately result in better-informed and more motivated students.
“Some students don’t do well because they don’t connect what they are being taught to applications in the real world. If we can connect what they’re learning to the real world, they’re more likely to apply themselves,” said Kukuk. “With this information, teachers can help them make the connection.”

The conference focused on raising awareness among science teachers about the importance of the chemical industry.

“[Kukuk’s] track on Careers in the Chemical Industry was very informative and was well received by the science teachers,” said John Koegel, chairman of the Science Teachers and Industry subcommittee.

The Texas Chemical Council’s Science Teachers and Industry workshop has been growing in participants for the last three years and is funded by corporations to help spark interest in science careers, said Koegel.
“While the program has grown in days and number of participants since 2010, we have been able to cover the full cost of the workshop in each of those years with corporate donations, making it a very viable and sustainable part of the TCC Outreach Committee’s annual program,” said Koegel.