How My Kenan Experience Has Changed Me As An Educator

February 18th, 2018 by Emily Warnke

First of all, I’ve changed through my Kenan Fellowship experience just by seeing the greater STEM world outside of the classroom.

As a Kenan Fellow this summer, I had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks at Siemens Energy.  The opportunity to learn first-hand about STEM careers in our community was invaluable.  At Winget Park, I wanted to give each of our teachers a taste of that same experience. All teachers and teacher assistants were provided an opportunity to choose from 1 of the 4 companies.  (Red Ventures, Siemens, Pfaff Molds, and Chiron) Grade levels and PLC’s were distributed across the 4 businesses so that during PLC meetings the following weeks teachers could discuss what they observed and ideas for implementation.  All teachers also filled out a google form after their visit to share ideas that were sparked by the visits.

Along with the 4 companies that opened their doors to our teachers for the “Teach a Teacher “ event, we have had approximately 35 speakers come to Winget Park to speak with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students about their STEM careers during the first 2 weeks of February.

I think teachers seeing the opportunities that our students have for future careers can help them to better translate to students the “why” behind some of the things we need to learn.  A 4th  grader might not understand why they need to learn fractions. It is much more powerful to have an example of creating a mold for a car part that needs to be within 1/64th of an inch than to just say, “You will need it in the future.”

Also, exposure to these companies helps to drive home the need for developing such 21st century skills as problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. Companies are looking for self-directed learners, people who don’t wait for someone to give them the answer, but try to solve the problem on their own. The more we can prepare our students for this, the better!

My Kenan Fellowship experience has also given me a drive to seek more professional development, not just for myself, but so that I can share new information and best practices with my colleagues. I have set and met the goal of speaking at a state conference this year. (NCSLMA 2017 in Winston Salem) I am excited to attend my first NCTIES conference in Raleigh in March.  My future goals include attending and eventually presenting at a national conference!  I also am very excited about participating in another NCCAT professional development opportunity in the future!

As a Kenan Fellow I have grown personally and professionally.  I have been able to develop a set of best practices that I feel will help to prepare students for their future. Critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration are not really measured by the state standardized tests, but those skills are absolutely essential in developing students ready for the future.  I have taken the opportunities to be a leader in my school and help other teachers to benefit from similar opportunities.

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