When I attended my first STEMteachersNYC chemistry workshop, I was in the middle of the roughest year of teaching that I have had in my six years (new city, new school, a class of kids really testing my limits). What I began to find in the organization was the exact piece that I was missing: a community of individuals committed to educating students in the best way possible, regardless of the absurd metrics we as teachers get held to.
So when I was asked to teach physics for the first time, I had a place to turn, and STEMteachersNYC’s Mechanics Modeling workshop taught by Master Teachers Zhanna Glazenberg and Paul Bianchi gave me the tools I needed to succeed.
A community of teachers is nice and all, but we’re all data people so if it doesn’t work who cares? It worked. I took over a physics department that was in disarray and not serving the best interest of all students. At Democracy Prep, all juniors must take physics, but when I took over, only about 50% had passed the Regents exam two years prior. Because of the PD provided by STEMteachersNYC, my students’ scores jumped from the abysmal 50% pass rate to more than 80%. 5% of all IEP students in NYC that passed Regents exam for physics came from my class. Because of the large number of students and the atrocious lack of physics education in the City, this meant that the majority of students in District 5 who passed the physics Regents succeeded due in no small part to STEMteachersNYC.
Because of the PD provided by STEMteachersNYC, I was able to take a class that was despised by kids and turn it into a class where students saw why these skills were important. Beyond the basic curriculum, they saw the problem solving, academic discourse, and critical reasoning skills at work that they would need in any career going forward.
To those of you curious about the workshops, jump in. To those of you who support our work, I thank you on behalf of my students, who have had amazing access to student-centered learning as a result of this organization.
Steven Lance, Physics Depart. Democracy Prep HS – Harlem, New York