emPowering STEM Conference Strengthens Classroom to Career Connections

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Middle school STEM educators from across North Carolina joined business leaders on Thursday, March 8, 2018, for the emPoweringSTEM Classroom to Career Conference on GSK’s campus in Research Triangle Park.

The one-day professional development session gave the teachers a remarkable opportunity to learn from industry experts in the information technology, energy, agriculture and engineering sectors. In all, 116 educators from each of the state’s school districts were invited to participate in the event, which was made possible through a partnership between GSK, the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, and the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at NC State University. The educators who were selected to participate in the conference were handpicked by their superintendents or district leadership and have been recognized as a teacher-leader in STEM education.

The idea for the emPowering STEM Conference grew out of the need to close the gap between the STEM skills that North Carolina companies seek in their employees and the level of interest and mastery in those fields among students. By working together industry leaders and educators are able to increase high-quality work-based learning across North Carolina to ensure students are being prepared to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Jack Bailey, GSK’s President of US Pharmaceuticals, and Mark Johnson, the State Superintendent at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, welcomed the educators to the conference. Following the opening session, the teachers rotated between four different interactive “learning labs” led by experts from North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and Duke Energy, the Kramden Institute, the North Carolina Farm Bureau, the Fleet Readiness Center, the UNC Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and GSK.

The sessions provided educators with lesson plans, resources, and ideas for making stronger connections between career readiness and the content they teach in their classrooms. In each session, an educator from the Kenan Fellows Program alumni network was present to help guide the instruction. Kenan Fellows who helped led the learning labs were Will Edwards of Wilson County, Erik Schettig of Wake County and Christy Wilson of Craven County.

During lunch, a panel discussion featuring Napoleon Wallace, an assistant secretary in the NC Department of Commerce, LaTanya Pattillo, Governor Cooper’s Educator Policy Advisor and a 2013-14 Kenan Fellow, and Jacquelyn Moore, GSK’s HR Business Lead, shared their advice on how to further strengthen the link between curriculum and workforce development.