Transforming STEM Learning Spaces: PowerUp EDU

Since we Last Spoke…

PowerUp EDU has grown, not only as a company, but as a powerful support system for educators in the Southern United States. They have continued to re-define the term “educational consultant.” Instead of dropping off a piece of technology at a school and going on their way, team members like Maggie Phillips and Spring Charles are always there to walk teachers through the process, solve problems, and provide insight. It is never purely transactional. It is a partnership where both attributors (school and educational technology company) do their part to ensure student and teacher success.

In the past year, the company has seen some major shifts in the educational space and, at the 2023 Woz ED Pathway Conference, PowerUp EDU was named Woz ED Pathway Partner of the Year. I caught up with Maggie Phillips, PowerUp’s Head of Professional Learning and Teacher Engagement, Spring Charles, PowerUp’s Director of STEM, and Debbie Gaillard, PowerUp’s Marketing Director. They shared some of PowerUp EDU’s major “wins” and learnings over the past year.

Overall, they have seen the dreams of each school grow bigger, and with that, the possibilities have increased for many schools and districts that they work alongside. For PowerUp this is the main goal, to make the seemingly unattainable, attainable for any school or district that has dreams of creating a thriving STEM program. 

From School Leader to Team Member

This year, Spring Charles, previous STEM coordinator at Albertville School District in Alabama, joined the PowerUp EDU team as Director of STEM. This has been a positive change for both Charles and PowerUp. Charles sees this as an opportunity to use the success of Albertville STEM programming that she helped facilitate as a catalyst to assist other schools who are in the process of adding STEM resources and building programs.

Charles is known as the “Woz ED Queen” in the office. She might just be the number one fan. She says,

“Programs come and go. I’ve never believed in a program as much as I believe in this one.”

Charles hopes to bring Woz ED to as many schools as she can because she truly believes that it can change lives. 

For the PowerUp team, the addition of Spring Charles has given them an inside look at programming and success from a district standpoint. She can speak from the experience of a school administrator wanting to create a STEM program, allocating resources, and finding what works. Not only that, but she is a delight to be around and her energy and passion for the work she does shines through her.

Partnership is Always Better in STEM Education

The key to successful implementation is partnership. Woz ED and PowerUp each have outstanding technological products that speak for themselves, but neither organization would be as widely utilized and successful if the other did not exist. When a drone from a STEM Kit malfunctions, the PowerUp team is there to fix it. When teachers need extra training, representatives from Woz ED and PowerUp EDU are there to provide that for them.

The biggest success stories are those that come about because of the vast STEM ecosystem that exists around a school or district. Organizations like Woz ED and PowerUp EDU thrive because they are a part of this web of moving parts. In the long run, it is teachers and administrators that do the work, showing up each day, learning new materials, securing funding, rearranging schedules and curriculum. But, when you have a strong partnership working toward a common goal, the task at hand becomes less daunting and everything becomes more possible. 

The reason that this partnership works so well is because of that common goal. Each company works with the teachers and students at the forefront of their minds. Their goal is to provide excellent technological resources to schools that are easy for teachers to learn, engaging for students, and ultimately aid in preparing students for successful futures. 

Other Ingredients of “The Secret Sauce”

Listening is one of PowerUp EDU’s strong suits. Each member of the team listens to the needs of every school they work with. This is what sets them apart as a company. They do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach. They aren’t pushing products on a school simply for the sake of making another sale. They show up in order to listen to the individual needs of each district and school they work with, understanding that everyone is different and requires a unique approach to building a program.

The other huge proponent of success is continuous support. Phillips says it well,

“We aren’t going to drop it off and disappear. We stay in close contact. We want to be on site with you to support you as you learn it and implement it and use it with kids. Whether it is modeling a lesson, whether it’s sitting beside you while you teach. We try to be very approachable with the goal of serving people as best we can.”

Spring Charles attests to the truth and power of that support. When she worked at Albertville as STEM Coordinator, the PowerUp Team and the Albertville Staff became family. There was never a time where PowerUp wasn’t present to support, train, and offer guidance to teachers and administrators at Albertville. She attributes this partnership as one of the main components of Albertville’s success, allowing it to become Alabama’s first Pathway District.

Schools and Districts That have Inspired PowerUp’s Work

PowerUP EDU works with many schools and is excited to be a part of each one’s journey of growth in STEM. There are a few districts that are raising the bar and getting the team especially excited to show up. Bartow County School District in Georgia is one of those districts. PowerUp has been working with this large southern district for many months now and have walked alongside the school as they have transformed learning spaces together. Here, traditional libraries have been turned into media centers with PowerUp’s digital whiteboards, Woz ED Drone Kits, and more. It doesn’t end there.

Bartow County will serve as a prime example of what is possible for other schools and districts in their area. This is one of the reasons Debbie Gaillard mentions that dreams have gotten bigger. Educators are realizing that their goals aren’t so far away and that what they set their minds to is possible with the help of companies like PowerUp, Woz ED, STEM2Hub and others. As Gaillard says,

“We have been able to literally transform learning spaces. We are in the process of changing student lives on a greater scale than we ever have before.”

Durant Independent School District is another area buzzing with the good energy that STEM programming brings. In the beginning of 2023, PowerUp EDU aided this district in the building of a STEM Bus stocked with technology. This bus would drive around to various schools and offer students hands-on learning experiences with drones, mobile development, animation, and coding. A year later, the district, a small one that rests on native land, is gearing up to purchase all ten Woz ED Pathways and become an official Woz ED Pathway District of Distinction.

This serves as an excellent example of how STEM can level the playing field. This is why the PowerUp team keeps going, to allow every school to experience world class technology that will equip their students with skills to succeed in the future job market no matter what their background is. 

The Work is The Motivation

I asked these superstar women what the most rewarding aspects of their work are. Spring Charles is excited to continue on her mission to get Woz ED resources to as many schools as she possibly can. When she believes in something, she is going to do her best to allow others to see its effects for themselves. She knows that this program works and that it can truly change student lives. She loves to see teachers interact with new materials and get excited about the curriculum.

Maggie Phillips is a fan of the a-ha moments students have when they learn something new. Even more than that, she loves to see teachers witness those a-ha moments because it is the teachers who can carry that with them to each and every student they interact with. There is something extraordinary about watching a teacher get excited about what they are teaching. When a teacher is motivated and passionate it shines through them and can impact an entire generation of students.

Debbie Gaillard, PowerUp’s storyteller, is looking forward to hearing more success stories and highlighting the accomplishments of all of the incredible schools she and her team get to work with. She loves to highlight the people and teams that have put in the work and seen that seed grow.

Published: March 29, 2024

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