About STEP & TEA

All about the Scheller Teacher Education Program and The Education Arcade

About STEP & TEA

Our history, mission and supporters.

Our Story

Deeply rooted in the MIT tradition of Mens et Manus, as well as the work of constructionist Seymour Papert, The Education Arcade and Scheller Teacher Education Program have worked tirelessly over the years to impact teaching and learning.

To this end, we have always sought to uncover that which is authentically playful in a particular content area and have worked to bring that playfulness and engagement to the forefront of the teaching and learning processes. This philosophy permeates all that we do, including our teacher licensure program, pre- and in-service professional development, games, simulations, and programming tools. Each of these programs is designed to support teacher- and student-directed exploration and discovery.

Our Reach

Since its inception, STEP has served more than 600 MIT undergraduate students. But this is only part of the story. Many of those undergraduates have gone on to become teachers and impact the lives of hundreds of students each year. Some have taken leadership roles within their schools, providing instructional coaching and mentorship for their colleagues. A few have created or contributed to the development of teaching and learning programs at universities in other parts of the country. Others have taken teaching and leadership positions in industries, bringing sound education theory and practice to bear on the doctor-patient relationship, organizational training, and human development.  And yet this is still only the tip of the iceberg when considering the thousands of in-service teachers that use STEP- and The Education Arcade-developed games, programming tools, and curricula to impact their teaching practice.

Our Namesake: Rita and Joseph Scheller '54

Since 2001, Rita and Joe Scheller have endowed the Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP) at MIT. The program originally grew out of a nationwide teaching crisis in the ’90s, in particular, the shrinking pool of math and science teachers. Under the direction of Professor Eric Klopfer, STEP has been working to rectify this since 2000.

The Schellers have supported this mission, resulting in a cadre of MIT undergraduates prepared to innovate science and math education. In addition to supporting the programs noted above, Joe and Rita have sponsored in-service science and math teachers from across the country to attend the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (SEPT). Joe Scheller has also conducted sessions at this summer program.

Joseph B. Scheller earned an SB in business and engineering administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He served as a pilot in the US Air Force (1955-1957), and then joined his father’s company, Silberline Manufacturing Company, Inc., as an engineer. Joe eventually became the company’s president and chairman. At MIT, he has demonstrated leadership as a volunteer, and has also served on the MIT Alumni Association Board of Directors as president of the Class of 1954, and on numerous class reunion committees. He was president of the Lehigh Valley MIT Club and member of the MIT Educational Council, interviewing high school applicants to MIT.

Currently, Joe is a trustee for the Dreyfoos School of the Arts Foundation. Additionally, he has been a trustee for a number of other institutions, including the Da Vinci Discovery Center of Science and Technology, Muhlenberg College, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Allentown Art Museum, and he is professional member of the World Future Society. He was an adjunct professor at Lehigh University, teaching Introduction to Business. Joe is the author of two books: Think, Decide, Do, Reflect: A Little Book for Life Decisions, and From Pop-Pop with Love: Thoughts for My Grandchildren, describing some of his extensive travels to all seven continents. Over many years, Joe has also mentored K-12 students.


Rita Scheller, a former teacher, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and a master’s degree from Lehigh University. She is currently a trustee of the Allentown Art Museum, and a member of its Society of the Arts for 24 years. She is also a member of the board of directors for the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley. Both Joe and Rita were awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Muhlenberg College in 2011.

The Schellers are sincere supporters of education with a focus on K-12 initiatives.


Website design by Oren and Eric Klopfer, based on Hestia with help from BeaverBuilder.  Turtle art by Annie Wang.