Shanna Atzmiller

Bear Creek High School

Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Cultivating Tomorrow’s Workforce

Shanna Atzmiller teaches in a biology classroom at Bear Creek High School most of the year but when her students leave to enjoy their summer break, Shanna goes to work in local bioscience companies. With the help of Colorado BioScience Institute's (The Institute) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Research Experience for Teachers (RET) summer externship program, Shanna has spent the last two summers working in a life science lab.  


The Institute’s RET program offers educators practical knowledge and hands-on experience through summer placement in STEM companies. The educators return to their schools in the fall with greater content understanding, classroom practice and links to the real-world skills students will need. RET provides more than temporary seasonal support for the host companies, it is building a path to highly skilled future employees.


Shanna spent her first RET summer at AlloSource, a nonprofit organization in Centennial that provides life-saving and life-enhancing solutions in orthopedic, spine, burn and wound procedures. The team there welcomed Shanna as a vital part of the group for her lab experience. 


The following summer she was at iC42 Clinical Research and Development on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. iC42 is a global bioanalytical service center that combines quantitative mass spectrometry, metabolic and protein profiling technologies in a regulatory compliant environment.


At the end of each externship, Shanna transitioned from the lab back into the classroom with new knowledge and insight. Shanna is working with a diverse population of students that might typically not have access to knowledge about STEM careers so the extern experiences she has had in local companies and the new connections she has made to those companies allow her to bring many new learning experiences back to her students.


Shanna recognizes her RET experience as a vital contribution to both her students and Colorado’s need for a growing STEM workforce. 

“This program has given me the tools to teach my students relevant science skills that they would need in their future. I plan my lessons with a focus on science and engineering practices instead of a content focus. This allows me to weave the content in while building strong practices (skills) in my students.” Shanna said.

RET goes beyond classroom instruction to link industry contacts to teachers and students, providing STEM companies with a qualified pool of potential future employees.

“The scientists I worked with have an invested interest in creating a relationship with teachers and students so that one day they will get trained individuals at their companies. My students have gained more insight from the skills brought into the classroom and the connections that they can make through having industry partners talk with them.

“My students have a sense of accomplishment that I haven't seen in my classroom before, they feel that they are learning science better because they are working through real world techniques and problems. The RET program has made science fun again for my students and they feel that they are learning how to really be a scientist in my class.”


We could soon see this young talent entering our workforce; innovating new products, developing new solutions and solving tomorrow’s problems. Classrooms like Shanna’s are vital for Colorado’s STEM companies as they look to the future. 


With your support of The Institute, we’ll continue to make these connections that make a lasting positive impact on everyone involved. To learn more about hosting a teacher or getting involved with the RET program please contact Meg John


Shanna Atzmiller at work in the Allosource lab.


Shanna Atzmiller accepts her Educator of the Year award at the 2018 Annual Awards Dinner.