On Monday, November 6, 2017, with the elegant Alumni House as our backdrop, UNCG STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative Leadership Lab commenced. This event was the culmination of the Teach to Lead project, which launched our UNCG STEM TLC. The focus of the Leadership Lab was to bring teacher leaders, administrators and community stakeholders together to brainstorm how to grow and sustain the TLC.
Teacher leaders, stakeholders, presenters and guests settled in after mingling, embraces, handshakes and introductions over coffee; to be welcomed by Dr. Cooper, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services. Dr. Cooper noted the many past students sitting in the room and then moved on to the more pertinent point- the time for STEM is now. Ms. Emily Davis, Director of Educator Engagement ASCD, took up the mic to give an overview of Teach to Lead involvement and relate the background of how the UNCG STEM TLC came to be.
Dr. Christine Cunningham gave the keynote address. Dr. Cunningham’s innovative vision of engineering curricula in the elementary classroom is the inspiration that led us all to be seated together on this exciting and important day. Dr. Cunningham recounted the benefits of the engineering habits of mind. She noted how these habits help children seek to improve their world, foster problem solving skills and dispositions, increase student engagement which in turn leads to improved math and science achievement. Perhaps most significantly she stressed that engineering in the elementary classroom is a mechanism for equity. Engineering habits of mind build confidence in the learner, motivate them take agency over their education, and encourage otherwise marginalized students to find their voice and rise into leadership roles.
Katherine Pappa, the Center for Creative Leadership, did a stunning job of artistically capturing all that transpired during the day. She also led us in a wonderful activity to warm up our imaginations and bring clarity of vision for our problem solving. Cards with evocative images were placed around the room. Participants each sought out two cards. The first image represented the STEM TLC’s current
integration into the participants context and the second to address what we envisioned possible. This exercise reflected the very positive and warm feelings all have for the STEM TLC as an organization. The STEM TLC thus far is viewed as an avenue for bringing diverse people together, inspiring teachers to take a leap of faith, nurturing students and teachers alike, and a medium for building community networks. In a word – transformative. With the sky as the limit the STEM TLC could break barriers, redefine boundaries, and further the empowerment of teachers and students.
With the relevance and imperative of continuing such good work fully articulated the afternoon focused on the difficult task of brainstorming next steps. Working in break out groups we proceeded to consider what the TLC needs are and how to meet those needs. The afternoon flew by as the cluster of people at each table put heads together to outline a plan of action for the foreseeable future. The Leadership Lab came to a close with a list of actionable suggestions and volunteers to set many of the recommendations in motion.
The UNCG STEM TLC whole- heartedly thanks all those who made this amazing day happen. We thank those who took the time out of their very busy schedules to work with us and brainstorm with us. We thank those who are taken up the mantle of our mission of supporting teachers in providing students with the opportunity to explore, create and improve as engineers, scientists, innovators, leaders and change agents.