I am beginning a new chapter in my teaching career by moving to Thomaston High School in Thomaston, CT this fall. June 21st was my last day at my latest teaching position at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering in Newington, CT. I started that program without knowing exactly how it would work out, as I was planning out an integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum for the first time. I had advocated for such a program at Danbury High School and Ridgefield High School, but it did not work out at either. When the position at Newington was first advertised, I could hardly believe it – they wanted exactly what I had been advocating, an integrated STEM program that featured aerospace as its central theme! I was given the end of the 2014-2015 school year to write the curriculum, plan the facility, order equipment, and set up the academy program. The first students, 25 7th graders, entered the program in the fall of 2015. By the end of that year, we had established an outstanding program – I say “we” because my first attempts with these students needed a lot of adjustment, and they helped me quickly learn what worked and what didn’t. That first class was an amazing group of middle schoolers who I will always remember. The subsequent classes have also been outstanding. Now the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering is an award winning program that can continue with other teachers leading it.
As for starting a new position at Thomaston High School, I am very excited at the opportunities I will have there to take what I have learned about using an integrated STEM curriculum and applying it at a higher level. I will be teaching physics primarily, as well as math. In every class, I will connect what the students are learning in the physics and math classes. I will also giving them engineering design projects within each unit. Technology will be integrated into all classes as well. Students will not feel they are learning separate subjects, but instead will see how each subject contributes to their understanding of phenomena in the world around us. I also plan to start a STEM competition club where I will offer opportunities for students to compete in various STEM challenges. One competition I hope to coach is CyberPatriot, the nation’s largest cyber security challenge. I had very successful middle school teams in Newington, and I think Thomaston students would benefit from the experience. However, I will let the students pick the competitions they want to enter. I look forward to a great first year at Thomaston!