Theme of the month

Theme of the Month

Join us each month as we focus on a topic of interest to STEM Teacher Leaders with a webinar panel, open discussion, resources and blog post. 

Teacher Leaders Improving STEM Teaching and Learning

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With a great deal of gratitude to the community of teacher leaders who have participated in the STEM Teacher Leadership Network (,  I introduce our final theme which will take a look at teacher leadership from two different angles.

As part of this theme, we will be hosting two webinars this month, each with two teacher leaders as panelists. All four of these panelists were presenters in the recent  STEM Teacher Leadership Video Showcase. We look forward to your participation in  the webinars and ask that you take the time, if possible, to watch the related videos that accompany each webinar. (They are hyperlinked in the text below).


Part 1: Targeted Innovations: Promoting Engagement & Success in STEM

The first webinar, Targeted Innovations: Promoting Engagement and Success will be  held on January 10th at 7pm EST. The two panelists are Jerod Morehouse and Jose Rivas, both high school teacher leaders and PAEMST Awardees. This session will feature two innovative practices introduced into their respective school systems. They will also explore the collaborative process that led to successful implementation.

The first initiative, Student Self-Assessment, pertains to the development of an alternative assessment system for high school mathematics classes at  Timberline High School in Boise ID. As described in the video the faculty were committed to the idea that learning is not something that happens in the moment but rather a process that takes place over time. While they felt their lessons were aligned with this value, their felt that their assessments were not. Together, the teachers developed a system of self assessment which combined standards referenced grading and  students grading their own weekly quizzes. This resulted in creating a collaborative environment, increased student engagement and performance, and a rise in students' enrollment  in AP courses. 

The second innovation discussed is the Transformative STEM Literacy Initiative, implemented department-wide at Lennox Academy high school in CA. This innovation, co-developed by a team of faculty members,  was based on strategies proven to develop literacy skills and to emphasize the importance of literacy to STEM learning in high school. Strong reading skills are critical to solving problems, making decisions, increasing student confidence, and preparing for college and career. This is important for all students but especially for English  language learners who face an opportunity gap in STEM classes. STEM teachers often lack the training to teach literacy skills to students. The STEM faculty adopted the California English  Roadmap and standards,  a reciprocal peer coaching model of support, a common vision for student learning, as well a a distributed leadership model that allows for reflective practice and coaching, for 9 – 12th grade.  

These two high school initiatives are extremely interesting to explore in and of themselves, as each has tremendous merit.  But perhaps equally as interesting  is the role of teacher leaders in bringing a department  together to collaboratively implement a new innovative program school-wide. The session will explore how the programs were designed, sustained and assessed. What challenges were encountered getting buy in? What was the value to staff in addition to the value to the students.


Part II. Reflective Teaching: Engaging Students in STEM

The second webinar this month, Reflective Teaching: Engaging Students in STEM, will occur on January 17th at 7pm EST. It will feature two amazing high  school teacher leaders, Kirstin Milks and Gloria Kreischer Gajewicz. STEMTLnet chose these two presenters as both of their videos reflect an extraordinary commitment to reflective practice, ongoing evaluation of how teaching effects student engagement and learning, as  well as the willingness to re-examine their practice to benefit their students. Teacher change is not simple; it takes confidence, inspiration, humility,  and insight, all of which these panelists have in abundance.

Kirstin describes the experience of teaching ecology and climate science in her high school classrooms. Her carefully designed lessons combined hands-on experiences that mirrored the work of climate scientists. Yet her students found the classes depressing rather than engaging.  She acknowledged the feeling of anger, anxiety, and fear that the study of climate change can evoke. She changed her lessons with the aim of developing climate agency and cultivating hope in her students. During this session she will unpack her quick moving video which will be of interest to anyone introducing the topic of climate change in an often politicized environment. It will also be affirming to all teachers who have tried an innovation, and then reassessed, how they could change their practice to make it even better.

Gloria opens her video with one of those aha moments, that can cause a teacher deep reflection and change in practice. She describes how she moved from what was a more traditional teaching approach to challenging her students to develop models, solve problems, and to collaborate with each other. She transformed her understanding of her role as a teacher as she embraced an inquiry approach. She now engages students in lab experiments before delving into the vocabulary explanations, to  promote student ideas predictions, and engagement. Her video shares student voices affirming how this approach has engaged them.

What these two teacher leaders have in common is a reflective stance towards teaching. An interest in keenly observing their student reactions as feedback to alter a series of lessons, or a whole stance to teaching. Teacher leaders who share this reflective posture gain credibility with their colleagues and are more effectual not only in the lessons that they impart to their students but in engaging other teacher leaders.

We hope to have broad attendance in these last two webinars hosted by STEMTLnet. While the funding for the STEM teacher leadership network will soon be  drawing to a close, we are committed to keeping the resources, webinars,  blogs and themes explored  here available for the forseeable future.

Webinars & Videos