Teacher Leaders huddle over STEM

Teacher leaders across Iowa convened recently to compare notes and advance STEM education.

Now that teacher leaders and instructional coaches dwell in schools throughout the state, an ideal partnership is in the making between Iowa STEM and building-level lead instructors. A robust roster of 440 such pivot-point educators in the areas of mathematics and science, as well as in the applied fields of technology and engineering, were accrued with the help of superintendents across Iowa. This august body of teachers were invited to convene in late April for a one-day "huddle" in which STEM leaders could apprise them of available resources and support, and they could compare notes in crafting best practices back home in their respective schools.

Monsanto's Huxley Learning Center provided an ideal meeting space, and Iowa's state Mathematics Supervisor April Pforts and Science Supervisor Kris Kilibarda joined in as hosts and presenters. Eighty-six classroom experts made the trek and invested a precious day in sharing and learning. An intrepid panel of distinguished teachers, Chelsey Ringsdorf of Sioux Center, Shannon McLaughlin of Norwalk, Reagan Boeset of Clear Creek-Amana, and Kenton Swartley of Cedar Falls, framed the conversation through their own lenses as teacher leaders.

Consensus emerged across the room for shared challenges they reflected upon, including limited (and sometimes absent) resources, unclear mandates, lack of time and isolated roles. An upside that united the emergent community was that more systemic educational progress is being made through committed practitioners placed in leadership roles. And, now that teacher leaders have been connected to the support structure of Iowa STEM, including helpful regional STEM managers and resource options such as the STEM Scale-Up Program and Iowa STEM Teacher Externships, leaders can make even greater headway in local schools.

Factor in the wealth of knowledge and resources brought by the Department of Education’s Kilibarda and Pforts, and a triad of forces congealed to advance STEM education for Iowa. Inquirers interested in joining future convenings of this group should register interest at Info@IowaSTEM.gov.

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