4 Ways Every Teacher Can Be a STEM Role ModelPosted by AVID Center on 4/11/2019
By Doug Ferguson, Senior Learning Designer, AVID Center
You don’t need to have a biology or computer science degree to inspire STEM thinking. Students need to see and hear from people who they can personally relate to so that they can envision themselves in similar careers when they grow up. This is especially true when it comes to STEM careers that students have never learned about. Students can only imagine themselves in roles that they know. Raising awareness of different career opportunities is a key aspect of education. This raises a common question among the average educator, “How can I, as a classroom teacher, be a STEM role model for my students?”
Being able to take on new things, like serving as a STEM role model for students, requires a growth mindset. This means believing that one can learn, try, do, and accomplish new things. Growth in an area over time eventually leads to passion, which is contagious. Modeling passion for STEM is where teachers can start. You don’t necessarily have to be good at something to be excited about it. Sharing areas of authentic passion for STEM permits, and even ignites, excitement about STEM while leading to passionate students.
Being humble in front of our students involves not just admitting, but transparently demonstrating, areas where we might not be proficient. Students need this. As teachers, we do them no favors by advancing the façade of universal mastery. To cope with failure, students need to observe a role model working through failure. To be okay with not knowing the answers or how to do something, students need to observe adults who can share and then demonstrate a growth mindset in a growth area. Students need the “real us” more than they need a false projection of teacher perfection because this allows them to be okay with and learn to value their imperfect selves as well.
Highlighting everyday examples of STEM raises student awareness. For example, video game development piques student interest and often requires a STEM team of programmers, computer graphics specialists, simulated physics experts, hardware specialists, and more. Altruistic or reluctant STEM students tend to engage with STEM applications as solutions that help others: clean drinking water, clean and affordable energy, local environmental conservation, delivery of life-saving medical supplies, preventing loss of life from local natural disasters, and so many other examples. Obscure or traditionally technical examples engage some students, but everyday STEM engages all students because they see immediate applications to their everyday lives combined with the awe and wonder all around them.
STEM Guests and Heroes
Students need to see themselves reflected in examples, and they cannot dream about becoming something that they do not know exists. For this reason, bringing in a variety of STEM professionals from a variety of demographic backgrounds to interact with students is critical. Examples include classroom presentations, guest-teaching lessons, a Q&A session with students, ongoing mentoring, interactive online sessions, serving as an audience for student presentations, sharing about personal or historical STEM heroes, and more. Raising students’ awareness combined with positive experiences interacting with professionals is the goal because this personalizes STEM.
Bringing It All Together
Everything comes back to empowering students to believe in themselves because we believe in them. Passionate people imbue passion in others. Modeled humility grants permission to fail, which allows people to permit themselves to try new things. Everyday wonder around everyday STEM brings relevancy and personalized value to the learning. This grows through personal connections to STEM role models. Not every child will choose to become a STEM professional, and that’s not only okay, but good; however, every child should have that choice. It’s up to us, as educators, to lead, teach, model, and invite that choice by example.
Download the STEM Role Model One-Pager
Notable Women in STEM: https://washingtonstem.org/notable-women-in-stem/
Hidden Figures in STEM: https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/hidden-figures/
The Importance of Highlighting Hidden Figures: https://www.learningliftoff.com/hidden-figures-inspires-young-girls-to-pursue-stem/
Downloadable STEM Role Models Posters: https://womenyoushouldknow.net/downloadable-stem-role-models-posters/
16 Black STEM Innovators Who Have Defined Our Modern World: https://www.idtech.com/blog/black-stem-innovators-who-defined-modern-world
Latinas in STEM: http://www.latinasinstem.com/
Black Girls Code: http://www.blackgirlscode.com/
Doug Ferguson is a Senior Learning Designer with AVID Center’s Interaction Design team. He comes to AVID with 15 years of instructional experience in public education. Doug worked as a STEM Integration Specialist and Instructional Coach as well as a National Board-Certified Teacher with 10+ years of experience in grades 4, 5, and 6.
Learn more about AVID’s approach to STEM and STEAM!