Using STEM to Grow Strong Children
Dr. Reagan Flowers is being honored as an African American STEM Champion of Change.
My passion and drive for helping children learn and succeed runs deep. As a child I failed the second grade and was, unfortunately, labeled a slow learner. Since education wasn’t reinforced in my broken home I was simply promoted from one grade level to the next one without acquiring basic skills. Subsequently, I was moved to a small town in Mississippi and attended a rural school where, for the first time, teachers invested in me personally and made me feel like I could achieve. I was a fifth grader when I started that school, but I’d never learned to multiply. With the support and guidance of several caring teachers I began to thrive as a student, and during my sixth grade school year I’d made the honor roll and was even becoming a math wiz! Thus, my calling to help other children rise above their challenges began.
I started my career as a science teacher at Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas. In an effort to give my students hands-on experiences with real world problems, I enrolled them in a national robotics competition. Those students, who were of mixed performance levels on campus, had no prior robotics experience nor had they been placed in such a competitive environment. My students were initially intimidated and doubtful about the competition. However, the group outperformed everyone’s expectations. While their performance in the competition was encouraging, it was also very humbling because I saw first-hand the stark reality of the vast academic achievement gap between my students and their peers from other schools. This experience caused me to take up a new mission: closing the academic achievement gap.
In 2002, I founded C-STEM (Communication-Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) Teacher & Student Support Services, Inc, the first integrated Pre K through 12th grade STEM enrichment program in the nation. The distinguishing factors of C-STEM Pedagogy and research model include: integrating communications (literacy) in STEM to ensure students can read, comprehend, write, and articulate solutions to math and science problems; implementing a curriculum influenced by STEM industries; developing a unique collaborative model that creates Pre K -12th grade pipelines; supporting interdisciplinary teacher teams through training and supplemental workshops; providing schools with innovative STEM instructional tools and resources; and developing competitive environments that support high performance and accountability for both teachers and students. In implementing C-STEM I have found teachers to be more effective in the classroom with connecting state approved curriculum to the real-world, which allows students to think critically and problem-solve. I find that C-STEM students are particularly drawn to the program because it helps them understand how STEM applies to their life and the world.
It is imperative that our schools remain leading authorities in STEM education worldwide. To accomplish this, educators must have adequate training, funding, and partnerships that aid in their development and leadership. This enables teachers to continue to inspire innovation, creativity, and exploration with their students. In my efforts I’ve also recognized that economic development in STEM is instrumental to future innovations. This is why my STEM approach provides support and services aimed at creating and sustaining STEM learning environments that are inclusive, equitable and level the playing field for the underserved and underrepresented. Children cannot dream or become that which they have not been exposed to, which is why opportunities provided by C-STEM create unlimited possibilities in communities across the United States.
Since founding C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc. in 2002, the organization has grown from 20 students working out of the janitor’s workspace in a school building to impacting over 100,000 students. I have great success stories of students impacted by C-STEM that have completed college, are currently working as STEM professionals, volunteer with C-STEM, train teachers, mentor students and donate to support the organization that supported them. Their success and my triumph is proof that every student has potential and promise. At C-STEM, “Everyone is an Artist and an Engineer”.
Dr. Reagan Flowers is the founder of C-STEM, the nation’s first integrated STEM enrichment program for Pre K through 12th grade.