Blount teachers being trained to stress STEM philosophy
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County administrators are working this summer to rebrand education with an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Dr. Alisa Teffeteller, supervisor of career and technical education, and Colleen Mattison, Heritage High School assistant principal, recently attended the inaugural Tennessee STEM Leadership Academy. They were selected by Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt.
The three-day academy, which was presented by ORAU and the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN), featured teaching tips designed specifically for STEM subjects, hands-on group energy challenges and experiments, a tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a presentation given by retired NASA astronaut Mary Ellen Weber. Teffeteller and Mattison will share STEM standards and best practices with other county employees.
STEM education is driven by problem-solving, discovery and exploratory learning. By adopting the STEM philosophy, the four subjects are taught dependently. The science, engineering and mathematics fields are heightened by the technology component, which provides a creative, innovative way to solve problems and apply their knowledge.
Both administrators were pleased with the experience.
“The STEM Leadership Academy was a much-needed experience,” Mattison said. “We’re rebranding education. As educators, we needed to make connections, build relationships and share our successes and challenges. It’s the only way programs can go from good to better.”
She also appreciated the opportunity to meet with educators from their regional STEM innovation hub. “We have a vested interest in our hub, and we’d like to correlate our program with its vision. Besides the acronym, educators don’t really have one definition for STEM. We haven’t determined what a STEM program should look like, or how we should build the curriculum.”
However, the state’s educators are paying close attention to Heritage High School.
Administrators have heard about Heritage High School’s STEM Studio, which will open this fall, Mattison said. It’s Blount County’s first STEM academy.
Educators from other school districts want to visit Heritage High School’s STEM Studio and learn about its programming, she said. When the studio opens, students can choose from two paths: engineering and health science. School officials will implement a third path, agriculture and animal systems, in the near future.
Teffeteller was most impressed with the academy’s emphasis on producing career- and college-ready students.
“As CTE director, it helped me see how current and future jobs are integrating STEM into their respective fields. We’ve got a clearer direction for our students. It’s important to start STEM education at a young age and scaffold them toward a more rigorous curriculum, ultimately building to a high school experience that will prepare them for the competitive nature of current and future jobs and help them be successful in the 21st century workplace.”
Blount County’s students are already using STEM education principles to various degrees, she said. Middle-schoolers, for example, work with robotics, build designs out of LEGOs and construct rockets.
William Blount High School is also piloting some STEM courses this year, in anticipation of full implementation next year, Teffeteller said.