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SVCTE teacher Jim Burnham receives Curiosity in STEM Award

Jim Burnham receives Curiosity in STEM Awardr

The accomplishments of Jim Burnham are quite literally on fire as he continues to light the spark of learning and inspiration for students in his mechatronics engineering program at Silicon Valley Career Technical Education Center (SVCTE).

On Friday, October 7, 2022, the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) announced that Jim was chosen for the Curiosity in STEM Award, presented by The Tech Interactive. The award is given to a teacher who has demonstrated a passion for inspiring curiosity in their students. This teacher seeks out innovative opportunities to spark wonder and encourages students to take the lead in their own learning, fostering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skill-building through inquiry and hands-on exploration.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the work we, as engineering and technology teachers, put into our craft,” he said. 

Jim will be honored at the SCCOE’s 52nd annual Teacher Recognition Celebration on October 24 at the Campbell Heritage Theatre in Campbell alongside other exemplary teachers from school districts countywide for their dedication to students, commitment to the teaching profession, and community involvement.

“I have always loved to teach and to see students learn new ideas and realize that science, technology, engineering, art, math, and all things nerdy are fun and cool,” Jim said. “I especially like to see that moment when a 'light' goes on and they 'get' a hard concept."

Teaching high school is always something Jim said “noodled” in his head. So it came naturally when in 2016, after 25 years in the high-tech field, he made the jump from the corporate world to teaching high school students. In his first year, he taught a cybersecurity course and in 2017 he started the mechatronics engineering program at SVCTE.

“I want all students to have access to the technical material that helps them understand the world in which they live,” he said. “If teaching engineering through fire-breathing robots is the way to do it, then awesome. Teaching is about preparing students to live in their future.”

Jim readily admits that the future of students today looks very different from the one that existed 20 to 30 years ago. 

“We as teachers have an urgent need to understand that future and help our students thrive,” he said. 

Jim has previously garnered other recognitions, including being named 2019-20 MetroED Teacher of the Year, receiving a grant from State Farm in 2021, and receiving a new 2020 Revolution Robotics Challenge Kit with the support of DuPont Silicon Valley Technology Center. For more information about Jim, visit his website.

Shannon Carr