EmPOWERing STEM Educators
Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), in partnership with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF), recently awarded $10,325 to INK!, the St. Johns County Education Foundation, as part of the company’s statewide EmPOWERing STEM Educators initiative. The EmPOWERing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) grant supports STEM-focused peer-to-peer professional development to increase teacher knowledge of effective math and science instructional practices that align with Florida Standards.
INK! submitted the grant application in collaboration with local science educators Steve Kirsche and Marna Fox. The St. Johns County grant seeks provide transformative learning to support teachers with the goal of improving student learning and to equip teachers with the tools and knowledge to successfully pass a State of Florida certification exam. INK! will administer the grant while Kirsche and Fox implement the peer-to-peer professional development program to support science educators in St. Johns County public middle and high schools. The program will conclude in the Spring of 2024.
Supporting Science Educators Across St. Johns County
Kirsche and Fox invited science educators throughout St. Johns County School District to participate in the program. Participants teach at Pacetti Bay Middle School, Fruit Cove Middle School, R.J. Murray Middle School, Bartram Trail High School, St. Augustine High School, and Tocoi Creek High School. Many are second career teachers.
“We have some very talented science educators in our district. This program is designed to help them broaden their skill set, to support their teaching, and improve student learning. We are helping educators build stronger foundations in science and sharpen their skills to support their teaching and improve student learning,” said Kirsche, who is a former U.S. Navy officer, NASA STEM content developer, and Albert Einstein Fellow. He is currently a Program Specialist for Middle School Science for the St. Johns County School District. “Through the grant, we can provide our peers with valuable learning opportunities to benefit their professional development and the education of STEM students in St. Johns County,” he said.
Promoting Curiosity, Critical Thinking & Problem-solving in STEM Teachers
According to Fox, a Program Specialist for High School Science for the St. Johns County School District, the EmPOWERing STEM Educators grant will fund stipends for lead educators and participants, instructional materials, tutorial sessions, and other resources for the peer-to-peer professional development program. Fox is a National Board-Certified Teacher certified in Chemistry, Biology, and Middle Grades Science, and a recipient of two Fulbright Scholarships.
“We hope to promote curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills for participating teachers by empowering them with knowledge and strategies to transform student learning. This will help them to inspire their students to become scientists, engineers, innovators, and life-long learners,” said Fox, who is also the lead teacher for the grant project. “We are working together to create much needed collaboration with educators who must pass rigorous state testing outside of their current subject areas. Re-training and retaining teachers in STEM programs is imperative. This initiative will greatly help our participants and their current and future students,” she said.
Collaboration + Investment in Teachers = Impact in Student Learning
“INK!, FPL, and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations maintain a unique partnership. Together, we support a STEM-focused educational opportunity that supports our educators and cultivates the next generation’s workforce,” said Cathy Newman, INK!’s Executive Director. “This is INK!’s second year as a recipient of the FPL grant supporting our STEM educators. Investments like this from our valued business partners promote STEM learning and can introduce students to countless career opportunities within the classroom environment,” she said.
FPL is partnering with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to bring the EmPOWERing STEM Educators Program to school districts throughout the state. Since 2010, the Consortium has administered hands-on, workplace-based STEM classroom learning experiences to increase student awareness and interest in STEM careers and teachers in math and science.