Theresa McSweeney joined the Boise School District as a teacher in 2017, but this past summer, she sought out a unique experience to expand her skillset.
An experienced educator with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, McSweeney taught in Chicago public schools before moving to Idaho. She found an opportunity outside of a classroom setting — through St. Luke’s Integrated Health Technologies department, she got hands-on experience that she plans to use inside Boise School District classrooms.
St. Luke’s IHT team partnered with the Idaho STEM Action Center and Idaho Workforce Development Council to provide a paid externship opportunity for an educator through a grant from Micron.
“The goal of the externship was to place an Idaho teacher in a work environment where they could glean understanding and insight that would help them shape their classroom curriculum to better help prepare the students for the work world,” said Reid Stephan, St. Luke’s vice president and chief information officer.
McSweeney has a passion for STEM education. She described the 200-hour externship, which wrapped up in August, as a bit like going back to school and “like drinking from a fire hose.”
“My time was planned so thoughtfully, and I was able to engage with people from across the entire IHT department in their work and passions,” McSweeney said. “I say ‘passions’ because the amount of knowledge, care and empathy shown to me during my adventure across IHT was evident in every St. Luke's employee.”
This externship allowed McSweeney to see various aspects of the technical arena. She worked with several members of the IHT team, including Brian Bulow, a manager, and Lexi Jensen, a continuous improvement coach. They were able to tailor McSweeney’s time to provide lessons she could take back to her classroom, digging into cybersecurity, web design, data analytics, clinical engineering and more.
McSweeney particularly enjoyed learning from the innovation team, a subset of the IHT department that focuses on solving problems and challenges across the health system and health care industry.
“Their role and the way they problem-solve in teams reminds me of what I need to encourage in my students in a classroom setting,” she said.
The externship not only provided a rare experience for McSweeney, but she in turn added value to the teams she visited. Stephan said McSweeney brought fresh perspective that helped the department think about changes on how to attract and retain the emerging workforce.
The externship was a success for all, Stephan added.
“It is a phenomenal way to engage with community, to create awareness around the variety of career pathways that exist within health care and to help shape the education students are receiving to support them in their efforts to be more career ready,” he said.
McSweeney’s experience is already paying dividends in the classroom. While working with a student who had a recent coding issue, she guided him through the trial-and-error process to find a solution.
“I would not have known to test the waters the way we did without the summer experience,” said McSweeney, who is planning to return to St. Luke’s as an extern next summer.
“We are at a pivotal time in technology development and exploration,” she said, “and I really want to be a part of that!”
Jamie Hudson is an intern in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.