From the Executive Director’s Desk – May 2023

Levi PatrickFrom the Executive Director's Desk, Front Page, Partners, STEM News

As we approach summer, we recognize the effort that educators have been putting in to finish the year strong. The final stretch can be invigorating; we hope you feel that excitement. If you’ve felt worn out, please know you are valued and doing an exceptional job.

To encourage you, I want to share something I’ve recently learned. Last year, our team conducted listening sessions with young adults from across our community to gain insight into the experiences of girls and Black, Hispanic, Native American, and LGBTQ youth in STEM education. As part of a nationwide effort, a total of 600 stories were gathered, and the insights were profound. 

As we learned about what experiences support or harm students’ sense of belonging in their math, science, or computer science classes, we discovered that their TEACHER was the most significant factor in determining a student’s STEM identity. I knew that, but it’s encouraging to have data and stories reflecting this.

The National Teacher of the Year, Rebecka Peterson, recently emphasized the importance of listening to our students:

“Now more than ever, we as educators have to create these spaces where we’re able to hold their stories and to sit with them and lean into what they’re telling us. They’re counting on us. They’re counting on us to create these safe and open places.”

Indeed, we have to listen to them! They’ve told us the teacher matters the most, and we must advocate for a system where teachers are treated as though they matter the most.

Hopefully, you both know your impact and are always looking for new opportunities to have an even greater effect, whether by making safe and open spaces where your student belongs or by advocating for them to have every opportunity they deserve. 

If you are looking for new opportunities to make an even great impact, here are a few goals the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance is currently working towards that might provide us a new place to collaborate and support your work.

  1. Every student should have access to excellent STEM experiences during the school day. STEM encompasses more than just problem-solving and 21st-century skills. It provides a valuable learning experience that instills competence and confidence in math, science, or computer science. It also connects young individuals to interdisciplinary applications and contexts, demonstrating the importance of these subjects in their future careers. Students are encouraged to engage in compelling versions of this work as they begin to understand better the paths their future might take.
  2. Every student should have access to excellent STEM experiences beyond the school day. A child’s life extends beyond the school environment, and research shows that students who excel in various areas such as arts, reading, writing, and other disciplines often spend more time engaging in activities related to those interests. Providing opportunities for children to explore new ways to enjoy mathematics, science, and computer science can help repair any misconceptions they may have about not being a “STEM person” and foster a love for these subjects.
  3. Every student should have access to excellent STEM experiences in a competition setting. While every STEM learning experience should help students see the immediate usefulness of what they’re learning, competitions create a unique opportunity for students to collaborate with peers to accomplish their goals. Students often view these opportunities as pivotal moments that motivate them to strive for excellence and push them to improve. The competitive nature of these events creates a positive form of peer pressure that encourages students to perform at their best.
  4. Every student should have access to excellent STEM experiences supported by mentors. Students are dramatically impacted by the people they know and the entertainment they consume. Their immediate surroundings make up their lens for understanding how the world works and their role in it. Through mentors, students’ view of the world (and themselves) expands. When they can see, they begin to believe they can be it.

Later this month, we will officially launch our new Funding Portal, a single application designed to help you find the extra support you need to advance your goals for expanding access to excellent STEM education in your space. If any of these goals resonate with you, we want to help!

We hope you’ll find it easy to use! It’s been re-imagined to ensure our funding makes it to you when you need it. The platform will continue to undergo further changes as we strive to be an organization that embraces continuous improvement. Still, I’m excited that we’re taking yet another step in our journey to be your best support system. We believe in you and understand your impact, and we’ll keep doing whatever we can to make your work of inspiring and preparing students easier.

Good luck in the final weeks of the school year, enjoy your summer, and when you’re ready to get to work planning how you’ll be the biggest impact in the lives of your students next year, remember that we’re here rooting for you and ready to help!