Since our last conversation with Albertville, the school district has continued to thrive in STEM education. In 2023 two of the district’s schools, Albertville Elementary and Albertville Intermediate, gained Woz ED Pathway Status. The district is consistently improving their STEM programming, training teachers, and preparing students for the next step, whatever that may be.
Spring Charles, Albertville’s Technology/STEM Instructional Coach has also taken a position with the district’s partner, PowerUp EDU, to bring Woz ED resources and other educational technologies to districts across the Southern United States.
Teachers, such as Steven Lang and Ashleigh Brown, have stepped up their dedication to STEM Education across grade levels. With STEM labs, a summer program, and support from all players from Superintendent Bart Reeves and Assistant Superintendent Todd Watkins, teachers, and partner organizations, the district has continued to thrive. That last part is the key, as Ms. Charles says,
“You can’t have a successful program, if you don’t have good leadership behind you as a teacher supporting you. I’ve seen programs come and go and it’s hard. If the district is not excited about it, starting with your superintendent down to principals. Everybody that has a hand in has to be excited by the growth. If we all don’t play together, we can’t win the game. If we aren’t all on board it’s not going to work.”
Continuing Education at Summer Camp
Albertville has an impressive STEM summer camp that they have been building for the last few years. Here, students in grades one through six learn STEM concepts using Woz ED STEM Kits in Pathways such as Drones, Artificial Intelligence, Coding and Animation. They have started designing the camp to include upcoming first graders with the intent of creating a strong foundation for their young learners.
In the district’s half-day summer camp programs, teachers have smaller classes and are able to spend more quality time with the students as they learn. Teachers and STEM professionals are continuously improving the curriculum used at camp, testing different approaches and adding new technologies as they go.
The next step for the leaders of the summer program is to expand it, to add more activities, provide more spaces and resources, and make it available to more students.
The Star Players
Spring Charles tells me,
“If it wasn’t for the six STEM teachers, it would be hard to have a successful program. They are the backbone of this program.”
The six STEM teachers in the district have taken it upon themselves to lean into the materials, learn more, and try new things.
I had the opportunity to chat with two of these educators, Steven Lang, Albertville’s Intermediate STEM teacher and Ashleigh Brown, the district’s Primary STEM teacher. This is Brown’s first year teaching STEM. Before this, she taught first and second grade. She is motivated by the way her students bloom over time. She loves to see kids realize that they can do what they put their minds to. Lang, previously in Brown’s position, is now at the Intermediate School. He has seen the power of STEM in the way it inspires excitement amongst his students.
The Set Up and Outcomes
Mr. Lang and Ms. Brown walked me through the weekly STEM programming.
At the elementary level, the STEM programming operates on a bi-weekly schedule. Brown sees first graders once every two weeks and second graders in between. Her classes are forty minutes long.
They also utilize STEM kits in other classes. All teachers have access to the district’s STEM Bus and often take their classes there to inspire that explorative, playful spirit amongst the students. As more teachers are learning how to use Woz ED and PowerUp EDU resources, there is a wider use of these resources outside of the science and technology space. Brown’s favorite thing about her position is that she gets to witness certain students as they grown more confident,
“Once they realize it’s okay to make mistakes here and they learn how to collaborate to be successful by the time they walk out the door, that’s amazing to see.”
At Albertville Intermediate, Mr. Lang sees 850 students a week with four classes of fifth graders in the morning and four classes of sixth grade in the afternoon Monday through Friday. On Fridays, the school has a program called AGI Advantage where students who are falling behind get more one-on-one time with teachers. The reward for doing well in this course is that students can spend time in the Lab with STEM resources. Lang has found that this is a major motivator for students.
Albertville Intermediate hosted students and their families at a STEM night in December where Lang and his team set up stations, each within a different pathway, and the students went around competing in STEM challenges. They hope to be able to host more of these in coming months to get the community excited about STEM.
Up and Coming
Bart Reeves, Albertville’s new Superintendent, is fired up about STEM education. He has been a huge supporting force in the process of growing and improving Albertville’s STEM opportunities.
The district is focused on making their summer program the best it can be. They have seen the most interest and progress through this program. The next few years will be dedicated to reaching this goal.
Brown mentions her wish to start an after-school program and train more teachers in coming years. She has no doubt that this initiative will be supported by district leaders. Lang is excited to continue honing in on best practices and watching students as they become more collaborative, creative, and daring through STEM.
Charles is excited to know she has left a school district that she has worked in for 25 years to great teachers to keep doing great things in and out of the classroom. The STEM teachers are the heart of the STEM program. They work together from Kindergarten to High school to make STEM a prime focus in the district. Nothing is out of reach when it comes to Albertville City Schools.