Background: Kathrin is a 5th grade teacher at Shenandoah Elementary. She received her bachelor's degree in early childhood education from University of Memphis and a master's of education from LSU with a reading focus, and gifted certification. In addition to "teacher of the year," Kathrin is the recipient of several grants from the LSU/Cain Center, Kelly Gene Cook Foundation, Donors Choose, and Exxon Mobil. Most recently she received a DonorsChoose grant that was matched by the Carnegie Foundation through DonorsChoose's First Million Match, which was a celebration of DonorsChoose reaching one million projects funded.
Has STEM Fellows changed the way you teach at all?
"I don't know if STEM Fellows has changed the way I teach, but it has definitely motivated me to keep thinking of new innovative ways. Working with the other STEM Fellows has given me ideas, and it keeps me accountable because I see everyone once a month. It's in the forefront of my mind constantly."
How do you think we can raise awareness of STEM's value to parents?
"I think having the opportunity for parents to attend some type of STEM fair - like the Earth Day celebration that has really evolved and grown and people look forward to - there needs to be something during Engineering Week or maybe during the opposite time of the year when there's nothing conflicting with it, but there should be a STEM festival. I've heard of that happening in other cities and I think that would be the perfect way. Seeing the inexpensive and innovative ways teachers can do it in their classrooms would give parents confidence that they could do it at home. But another thing is for teachers to tell their students to go home and do [what they've learned] with their parents and then come back and tell the class for extra credit what their parents have learned, and they will post it in Google Classroom a lot of the time. So it gets them going home and sharing with their parents."
What advice would you give teachers trying to integrate STEM into their classrooms.
"Start small, but jump in with both feet. Don't be afraid to take risks, and let your students be the engineers. Step back and let them solve the problems; either play like you don't know or tell them you can't help them solve it. Teachers don't have to have all the solutions and be the expert in the classroom. And when you open up that opportunity, it puts kids in the driver's seat and they want to be in charge of that. So it can go from a very small 5 minute discussion that's STEM based to an actual activity that's STEM-infused. "
Have you noticed any changes in your students since you've started integrating STEM?
"Since the beginning of any interaction I've had with STEM-style learning, I have probably one of the most enthusiastic classes at the school. Kids want to be at school, they want to do things, because what we're doing is fun. Learning should be fun, it should be engaging, it should be something they have the opportunity to design and redesign. And it doesn't matter what subject it is, STEM goes seamlessly into all areas. I think the more opportunities I provide, the more programs I'm a part of - whether I'm a leader or a participant in those programs - just gives me the confidence and the top of the line understanding of new, innovative things that are coming out so I can use that same excitement I have to encourage and motivate my students."
The STEM Fellows is a project of the Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System made possible by a generous grant from Capital One. The purpose of the initiative is to establish and support a cadre of “STEM Teaching Fellows” who, armed with content knowledge, innovative teaching strategies, and an entrepreneurial spirit, can support their colleagues and transform EBRPSS schools into institutions of innovative STEM teaching and learning. Currently, fifteen educators in East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System are named STEM Teaching Fellows.