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Back to School: Six UCPS schools transform teaching and learning through STEM Leader Corps

STEM Leader Corps Beginning this school year, six UCPS elementary schools will have the unique opportunity to completely transform the way STEM education is offered in their schools.

Through the STEM Leader Corps program with Discovery Education, the selected schools -- Fairview, Poplin, Sardis, Stallings, Walter Bickett and Western Union – will be immersed in three years of intensive professional development sessions and experiences designed to not only build but sustain a culture of STEM education in their schools.

The cohort kicked off only two months ago, but Fairview Elementary Principal Kelly Thomas can barely contain her excitement when she talks about how this program will build on her school’s existing STEM culture in new and exciting ways.

“UCPS is already leaps and bounds ahead because of our EmpowerED framework, but this opportunity really connects and aligns perfectly with that and our existing STEM culture and philosophy,” Thomas said. “Discovery Education is a huge resource and we’ve only scratched the surface of it. There’s so much information for students and teachers -- and it’s such a powerful in-depth resource -- that we can’t wait to use it and bring it into our classrooms.”

What’s important to remember about STEM education, Thomas said, is that it’s not just about coding or access to the latest technology tools.

That definition barely touches on what STEM education is truly about, and doesn’t address the accompanying reasoning, teamwork and creative skills that help prepare students for future careers in any industry.

STEM Leader Corps Much of that culture shift has already been in the works throughout all of UCPS’ 53 schools, thanks to the district’s EmpowerED framework. But the STEM Leader Corps presents the participating schools with the opportunity to participate in more intense, frequent and in-house professional development sessions for all teachers at the school.

Each STEM Leader Corps school has already selected teacher leaders who will attend the professional development sessions offered through Discovery Education.

Following these sessions, a coach will then visit their respective schools to assist these teachers with their classroom lessons, ultimately turning their classroom into a “fishbowl lab” that provides other teachers with an opportunity to visit and observe the lessons.

“What I love about STEM Leader Corp is that it’s not just for the admin team or just for one teacher. Over a three-year-period, we’ll have our entire staff trained on how to utilize Discovery Education in our everyday STEM teaching philosophy,” Thomas said. “Having this training offered in-house is invaluable.”

By the end of the three-year program, Thomas said she envisions her students being future ready through a practical application of the lessons learned in class to their future career.

“We want students to be exposed to different ways of teaching and learning that mirror what they’re going to be doing later in life. When you walk into our classrooms, we want you to see teachers being a guide and students setting their goals and being responsible for their learning,” she said. “We’re excited, our teachers are committed and we’re ready to hit the ground running.”

Posted: Aug. 15, 2019