I was in elementary school when I first discovered my love of science. Mr. Mask, a 7th grade science teacher, came to visit our class, bringing with him his pet boa-constrictor. I immediately volunteered to pet the snake and from that day forward, I knew I wanted to pursue every science course available.
After college, I spent a short time working in cancer research but ultimately found the solidarity wasn’t a good fit for my personality. With the desire to still have an impact on the lives of others, I decided teaching would be the best way to share my passion. As a middle and high school teacher, I found my female students in particular struggled with finding confidence in learning and doing science and math. I suppose I shouldn’t have found this surprising, since my own college courses found me in the minority where about 25% of the students were female. In an effort to make STEM “fun” for all my students, I opted to provide hands-on, learning activities to introduce and reinforce concepts. Through this approach, I found my students retained more information, were more engaged, developed critical thinking skills and established a feeling of comfort when learning new science and math skills. My female students became less intimidated by their male counterparts and were engaged, often times taking the lead roll in their learning outcomes.
Fast forward to today, where I have the opportunity to work with numerous teachers and instructors from across K-12 districts to community colleges to universities. Initially I wasn’t sure I was a right fit as STEM education encompasses more than just science and math but engineering and technology. The learning curve was high as I had little to no experience with robotics and coding, 3D printing, mechatronics, HVAC and industrial maintenance, to name a few. I also found myself once again faced with being one of few females in a field dominated by men. Over the past year and half, I have learned more than I ever imagined while developing and strengthening relationships with our customers. Although I am still faced with challenges on a daily basis, I reminded of my impact on education in providing tools, trainings and partnerships that inspire and grow the next generation of STEM learners. Passing along my love of STEM education is the greatest reward of all.
Author: Mary Philpott