Dr. Chad Kauffman used to chase tornadoes. So he knows a thing or two about the pursuit of powerful things.

“On a whim I took a weather and climate class in college. When I got the test back, the professor said, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good at this. You ever thought about majoring in it?’” said Dr. Kauffman, Professor and program director; curriculum development coordinator, AMS DataStreme program, PennWest. “It was the best recruiting I’d ever seen because I was hooked right there. I’d never considered it, and he showed me all I could do with meteorology.”

Since then, Dr. Kauffman has been inspiring and showing students all the possibilities careers in meteorology and climatology have to offer.

“When people think of weather, they immediately jump to working in broadcasting, and that’s wonderful. But it’s also just the very beginning of what you can do,” added Kauffman. “We have had PennWest students go on to have graduate school paid for at some of the top climate graduate programs in the country and have even had students work for NASA.”

Over the last 22 years, he has been accompanying students to key conferences, introducing them to industry leaders and, yes, even joining a few to chase down twisters.

Dr. Kauffman and his colleagues began to create a Climate Science program where the sky truly wasn’t the limit for students. But he didn’t stop there. The inspiration he felt from his college professor and his work opening his students’ eyes to meteorology led him to look for new ways to reach even more students.

And the best way to reach more students? Reach their teachers.

It led him to launch PennWest’s DataStreme Certificate program.

The nine-credit, stackable, online American Meteorological Society DataStreme Certificate is comprised of a series of AMS-recognized courses that delve into important issues such as extreme weather, the role of water in our global climate system, the major threats to our ecosystem and strategies to mitigate climate change.

PennWest California professor Dr. Chad Kauffman works with junior meteorology student Justina Arena on AMS Datastreme software.

But it’s so much more than just a chance for educators to learn about our climate; it’s a chance to become a STEM leader and inspire students in a whole new field.

Over the summer, Kauffman leads students in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant-funded course (EAS 514) at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Mo. It is a collaborative course with the University’s partner institution, the AMS.

At AMS the course is known as Project Atmosphere, a competitively selected professional development opportunity for K-12 across the country that allows them to interact with professionals in the National Weather Service, the National Center for Environmental Protection, the National Hurricane Center, the Storm Prediction Center and other federal agencies. Kauffman also co-leads an Office of Naval Research funded course (EAS 515) near Annapolis, Md., known as Project Ocean (formerly Maury Project).

Thanks to a continuing partnership with the American Meteorological Society, the world’s most recognized professional society of atmospheric scientists, this certificate program offers you access to the AMS Teacher-Professional mentor network and the opportunity to pursue the AMS Teacher Certification Program (CAT) in conjunction with the DataStreme certificate.

The program provides you with the tools you need to bring near real-time data and resources into your classroom. All credits earned can be applied to a Master’s in Education. Best of all, six of the nine program courses are offered tuition-free. AMS also provides an array of low-cost educational resources.

“Providing educators with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading climatologists and scientists is one thing,” said Kauffman. “But to also pair them with another AMS Teacher-Professional ensures that the lessons they learn are brought directly back to their classrooms.”

The subject matter is critical.

“Climate change will continue to be a life-changing force for the foreseeable future. At PennWest we are ensuring that teachers know how to reach and inspire their students to learn and do something about it.”

Similar to Project Atmosphere, active K-12 teachers are competitively selected to participate in this hands-on ocean science course in partnership with AMS and the Navy. Kauffman works with both cohorts of K-12 teachers to enhance their classroom competency in weather, ocean and climate science impacting hundreds of students, by proxy, across the country.