Poland Middle School science and math teacher Jill Marconi has long held to the idea that science, technology, engineering, and math are subjects that students need to be exposed to in a positive and expiring role. Her ideas will become reality as she joins a small group of teachers from across the country who were chosen to participate in a new program to improve STEM education.
The Siemens STEM Institute chooses 50 teachers from across the country to take part in a fellowship, designed to bring teachers to the cutting edge of science, technology, engineering, and math.
It all started in February when Marconi heard about the program and applied.
"I had to send in an application, write two essays, and send in a YouTube video of strategies I use in the classroom to help motivate students in STEM classes," she said.
Of the thousand who applied, Marconi was informed on March 18 that she was among the 50 chosen. The program will take place on the week of Aug. 4-9 just outside Washington, D.C., at the Discovery Channel headquarters.
"We will be there previewing Shark Week," she said. "We were also told we would be working with the Smithsonian scientists and engineers that week."
The Siemens STEM Institute is an all-expense-paid weeklong immersion program that promotes hands-on, real-world integration of STEM in the classroom. Marconi and the other selected educators will be exposed to leading scientists, personalities and innovators whose work across the STEM disciplines help shape and define the world today. The week will be filled with guest speakers at the forefront of STEM, field trips to leading institutions where Fellows will observe real-world applications of STEM subject matter, and opportunities for networking and collaborating with peers from across the nation.
That all fits into what Marconi believes in. She said in the past, STEM classes were more bookwork than anything else.
"I was at the Boardman Library book sale and I saw one of my old school science books," Marconi said. "It made me think of how we used to just read the book and answers the questions. Students need to see and experience STEM subjects to get them interested. It's all about doing. I hate for our kids to not consider a job in the STEM field because they weren't exposed to it the right way."
The program will create a group of STEM ambassadors who can take what they learn this summer back into their own classrooms and become key influencers in their schools and communities. The Siemens STEM Institute specifically sought applicants who wanted to become STEM leaders and help change the way STEM subjects are taught in American classrooms, which fit the bill for Marconi's own ideas.
"When I come back from the program, I would like to start a professional learning community," she said. "It can be for the entire Poland School District and maybe spread to the entire county. Everything I learn that week will translate into something my students will learn."
Marconi already shares her own life with the students. Throughout her classroom are pictures from her travels in the West. She relates her own experience through her lesson work, sharing with the students to bring a sense of reality into the pages of their classroom books. This program will help her bring STEM ideas from the real world to her students.