Three local teachers to serve as ‘STEMbassadors’


Three county teachers recently joined a yearlong Regional Opportunity Initiative leadership and teaching program to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities in K-6 schools.


“I think it prepares them to be problem-solvers,” Emily Freeman, a fourth-grade teacher at Ireland Elementary, said of STEM. “Not just during the school day, but even at home and as they get older and head to high school and beyond, it teaches them how to be a good problem-solver and how to be a critical thinker.”

During the 2018-19 school year, ROI STEM Fellows, including Freeman, Fifth Street School first-grade teacher Audra Jahn and Cedar Crest Intermediate fifth-grade teacher Kelly Schroering will participate in professional development activities through the ROI program. These will be focused on experiential learning, engineering design process, project-based learning, meaningful technology integration, coding and more.

In a press release, ROI said that fellows will provide support to colleagues to grow the regional network of skilled STEM educators. After the program’s first meeting late last month, Freeman said she is eager to learn new activities she can tie into her curriculum and standards. Schroering said she hopes to share what she learns with teachers who aren’t part of the program.
“I look forward to learning more, and not even using it for just me, but spreading it to other people who are willing to listen and try in our school district, too,” Schroering said. “That’s gonna be the fun part for me.”

In addition to professional development activities, the new STEM Fellows toured Cook Polymer in Bloomington as part of their first meeting to learn more about advanced manufacturing and to talk to an industry partner about skills needed for jobs at all levels.

The STEM Fellows Program was developed in response to an occupational needs assessment that emphasized the importance of having STEM-literate students to meet current and future workforce needs and to provide a basis for continued economic growth and prosperity in our region, according to the press release.

ROI is currently implementing education and workforce initiatives and regional engagement initiatives for quality of place development — one of which led to the four Dubois County school corporations receiving a shared grant of $1 million that aims to align the school districts with the education and workforce needs of local employers and industry through the opening of a high school manufacturing academy that will be housed at Vincennes University Jasper Campus and a county-level career and innovation hub that will be developed at VUJC to serve as a central location for grant management and the collaboration and alignment between industry and the four school districts

ROI’s mission is to support economic and community prosperity in the 11 counties of the Indiana Uplands — a region encompassing Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties.

Teachers participating in the Fellows program are expected to commit to being at the same school for at least two years and to serve as a “STEMbassador” to peers in future cohorts of STEM educators. Participants in the program receive a $2,500 stipend the first year and STEM resources and materials. Substitute teacher costs are also covered to allow Fellows to attend professional development throughout the year.

“In the world of today, STEM Skills equate to success and opportunity,” ROI CEO Tina Peterson said in the press release. “Here at home, in the Indiana Uplands, we know that our key employers desperately need a workforce equipped to handle the rapid digitization of work. These elementary educators are forging a path that can only lead to greater success for students. Young people are naturally wired to be curious and engaged in all things STEM, and it makes no sense to wait until middle school or later to begin teaching STEM. ROI is excited to work with these dedicated professionals in empowering kids and educators to make STEM come alive in the elementary school years.”

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