The STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative was an idea that grew organically from Dr. Heidi Carlone’s prior research in engineering and child identity. After her initial year training and supporting a team of elementary teachers with Engineering is Elementary (EIE) curriculum, Heidi began having conversations with me, Jennifer Mangrum, a colleague in the School of Education at UNCG. I had admired Heidi’s work since I first met her in 2001 and I was eager to partner with her in any way possible.
In our early discussions, both Heidi and I saw numerous connections and patterns in my professional development work around classroom discourse and the high quality classroom instruction that was made possible with EIE. Graciously, Heidi invited me to collaborate with her and for the next few years, with resources from EIE and Dr. Christine Cunningham, we were able to provide summer institutes for teachers that engaged them in engineering practices, modeled effective teacher practice but more importantly celebrated teacher’s autonomy, knowledge and professionalism! The teachers we worked with inspired us and reinvigorated our spirit in the power of STEM education for all children.
Then, in unexpected but not surprising ways, the teachers we trained struggled to sustain implementation. Only months before these teachers had described the practice as powerful and exciting for their classrooms. It wasn’t completely surprising because all of these teachers worked in schools highly impacted by poverty and we recognized the many barriers limiting their use of time, space and talent.
THIS BEGAN THE BIRTH OF THE STEM TEACHER LEADER COLLABORATIVE (TLC).
The goal of the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative at UNCG is to support the work of inspiring and motivated teachers YEAR ROUND and to provide an infrastructure that will sustain this STEM initiative over time.
With a small amount of seed money, we were able to hire a young, energetic group, WE MEDIA, to think with us about whom we are and what we want to communicate visually. We went back and forth in dialogue and with examples but once we were presented with the light bulb and flower, we knew we found our symbol.
The light bulb as a symbol of innovation and engineering is not new. It is used frequently because it does a good job of combining the concrete (the amazing invention that transformed the world) with the abstract notion of “ideas”. As teachers we love those “light bulb moments” when concepts or values become clear. In addition, in our bulb the base is a continuous piece moving from the very bottom to the most inner portion; the stigma of the flower. It symbolizes the important element of iteration in engineering and the cyclic process; a system starts in one state and returns to that state after undergoing other processes. One final connection is the power of the light bulb and our mission to empower teachers.
The flower as filament was brilliant. We didn’t want our representation of “engineering” to be stereotypical wrenches and hammers. We wanted to connect engineering (using technology) with taking care of the earth. We Media understood that when they developed the flower inside the light bulb! In addition, the flower is a blend of both female and male components; a point not lost on us as we think about who identifies with engineering in today’s society. The flower reminds us that nurturing STEM in ALL classrooms is vital to an equitable educational system.
Our logo also represents our appreciation of beauty, joy and hope. The acronym TLC means something to us! While we want to help teachers develop professionally, we also want to remind teachers why all of us chose this profession. We chose it because of it’s potential to bring both the individual and the collective community happiness and good lives.
So, like the collaborative itself, this logo sprouted organically from the ideas in our heads, and the emotions in our hearts and finally from our hands that will work collaboratively with ALL those who want to join us!
Happy New Year!