Last week I was honored to have President Obama visit my science classroom at Parkville Middle School in Baltimore County, Maryland. It was quite a thrill for my students and me to have the President view their projects and highlight our program as a way to illustrate his goals for education.
Parkville’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)-focused magnet program strives to provide hands-on, real world experiences to our students in order to apply math and science concepts. We believe that through rigorous and creative instruction students become better prepared to go out into the world and more attuned to where their particular interests lie. By experiencing each discipline offered through our magnet program in the 6th grade, students can make informed decisions about their future coursework in the 7th and 8th grades. Through this approach, students choose their specialties, and as the President mentioned in his speech, engineering is Parkville’s most popular discipline. This may surprise many Americans, as our Nation is falling behind other countries in terms of awarding advanced science and engineering degrees. However, we here at Parkville see firsthand the value of exposing students to STEM at an early stage, which gives them the platform to succeed in those fields. We are not only preparing them for jobs and careers in the 21st century, but we are also aiming to provide them with a lifelong passion for learning and discovery—which is essential for our country to innovate and compete.
Our students have the potential to lead our Nation back to the top in terms of competitiveness and innovation, but it is the responsibility of educators and parents to open the doors of success and help them step through. Investing in STEM education in particular is important to ensure our country can succeed in the 21st century, and that starts in classrooms at Parkville and around the Nation. Our students don’t just learn about STEM concepts; they apply them by designing their own roller coasters to demonstrate the laws of physics and taking water samples from nearby Chesapeake Bay tributaries to practice environmental science. We provide a challenging, fulfilling, and creative environment for our students.
I love my career. I wake up every day excited to go to school and teach our students. Every teacher at Parkville is committed to providing our students the best education. We can do that thanks to the support of our administrators and the flexibility they provide us, enabling the use of innovative teaching methods. President Obama’s proposals for investing in our students and teachers, such as Race to the Top and his goal to train 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next 10 years, carry this concept forward. We must encourage individuals with a strong foundation in STEM to become teachers. The President’s proposals recognize the importance of changing how we support teachers and how we view teaching as a valuable and worthwhile profession that is essential to our Nation’s success.
All students deserve a challenging education as well as teachers that are knowledgeable and passionate about their fields. I appreciate President Obama’s recent visit, and his commitment to meeting these challenges—not only in Maryland but across the Nation.
Susan Yoder is the Science 8 Gifted and Talented Environmental Science teacher and Science Department Chair at Parkville Middle School in Parkville, Maryland