In a month and 2 days school starts. But I won’t be stocking up on teacher supplies and planning desk arrangements and bulletin board themes. Rather I’ll be packing up the books, paper, boxes of tissue, extra pens and pencils and composition notebooks that I keep in my classroom for the kids. I’ll be handing off Atom, the class pet, to another teacher. And I’ll be moving to a new space, a Maker Space that will be the nexus of our STEM integration program at the Junior High School. And I’ll be starting my new job.
My new job is the Secondary STEM Coach for our school corporation. I’ll be helping the teachers at the Junior High and High School to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the form of problem based learning (PBL) into their curriculum. Our goal is to become a STEM certified school corporation. Why, you ask?
As educators our job isn’t just to teach the three Rs (do they even say that anymore?) but to prepare students (in as much as we can) for their future. That means teaching them skills like collaboration and problem solving and nurturing character traits like perseverance, honesty, and creativity. And it means introducing them to dynamic, growing fields that are most likely to provide employment opportunities in the future.
STEM jobs are the jobs of today, and tomorrow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “employment in occupations related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022.” Jobs in these fields abound already but local employers tell us that high school graduates need additional skills and training before they can be hired. We want our graduates to be successful so we are stepping up to the plate and, using a combination of pre-existing and tested programs like Project Lead the Way, and additional homegrown instructional modules, putting into place an integrated STEM program that will give our students the education, skills and experiences they need to have in order to succeed.
I’m thrilled to be part of this effort. I have a strong and abiding interest in all things relating to science and have been flabbergasted when students in my classes have asked me “Why do I have to learn science?” So when the idea was floated this past year I immediately jumped on the bandwagon, attending and testifying at the county meetings that were considering funding the effort, joining the STEM leadership team, and immersing myself in opportunities to learn more. In June I was selected to be an International STEM Fellow (for which I will travel to China this fall) this summer I’m continuing to expand my knowledge through multiple professional development opportunities relating to STEM fields.
When the STEM Coach position was advertised I felt it was an opportunity to make even more of an impact on students than was possible as a science teacher (especially as this coming school year I was scheduled to teach only 7th grade instead of the 7th and 8th grade split that I had been teaching). So I applied and just this past Monday was offered the job. I accepted and look forward to moving into my new position (and space, yet unknown) in a month. Unfortunately there’s no salary increase and I realize I will miss developing a closer relationship with students. On the other hand I will be able to work with past students who’ve moved on to the High School and there’s a possibility that I will be able to teach a computer science in science class course (that’s one of the professional development opportunities I’d applied for with Code.org) earlier in the year. And I will be able to collaborate with a much wider range of colleagues – teachers from 6th through 12th grade in all subjects which I expect to be both a challenge and very rewarding. Wish me luck!