Investing in Teachers Helps Them Become Leaders in STEM Education

Written by: developer

by Becki Royall, Space Foundation Teacher Liaison and assistant principal, Mountainside Elementary, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Pictured speaking at the May 12 dedication of the Lockheed Martin Space Education Center at the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs)

It has been an honor to be a member of the Space Foundation’s Teacher Liaison program. I was selected for this program in 2008. Being selected as a Teacher Liaison was pivotal to my success as a 6th grade teacher. I participated in as many professional development programs as the Space Foundation offered. It is through those experiences that I gained content knowledge in science that I previously didn’t have. I learned to plan, design and build a model of a Mars/Lunar base. I learned how to make rockets, build and program robots, and most of all, I learned new and innovative ways to engage my students in many different types of science. I could not have accomplished what I did without the professional development and support provided by the Space Foundation’s Teacher Liaison program.

A key aspect of STEM education is the opportunity for teachers to experiment and use the technology they expect their students to use. If teachers experience inquiry-based lessons then they are more likely to create inquiry-based learning opportunities for their students. Defining what STEM education is, and what it is not, is the easy part. Implementing STEM education is the challenge. STEM teaching and learning can take various forms, BUT it has one thing in common. It gives students the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned or are learning. How a student applies his/her knowledge is the heart of STEM education.
As teachers, we want to have the answers to our students’ questions, but we can’t always provide the answers. Instead, we need to provide our students with opportunities to ask their own questions and find their own answers. Teachers have to learn how to do this, and this is one of the benefits of the Teacher Liaison program. It allows teachers to be students. To ask questions and develop solutions in the same ways their students would. I did.

In looking back at my experiences with the Space Foundation’s Teacher Liaison program I have realized that it allowed the schools and districts I’ve been a part of to build leadership density for STEM education. I became a science leader in my school and my district because of my experience with the Space Foundation. I know this is the same for other Teacher Liaisons. Educators across the world are provided an opportunity to positively impact their organizations as leaders of STEM education. Investing in teachers who return to their school as leaders in STEM are worth the investment, not only for the organizations these Teacher Liaisons are members of, but more importantly, the students they teach. Thousands of students a year are given educational opportunities to build their STEM experiences because of their teachers.

I am now an assistant principal at Mountainside Elementary in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. My school is a recipient of a STEM grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity Fund. My association with the Space Foundation has given the students in my school and our teachers opportunities to expand their STEM learning and teaching. It has allowed me to do the following:

  • to connect teachers with top notch resources;
  • to connect entire grade levels with the excellent educational programs provided at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center;
  • to provide teachers in my building and across the district with STEM trainings with Lego Robotics and Engineering is Elementary;
  • to connect a new group of teachers with students who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

I’d like to thank the Space Foundation for its focus on STEM education and the programming they are providing. I’d also like to thank the corporate sponsors who have made donations to the Space Foundations programs of the past and the future. 

-Becki Royall

About Teacher Liaisons
Space Foundation Teacher Liaisons are extraordinary educators who use space-related education programs and principles in the classroom to act as advocates for space-based education in their schools and districts. If selected for the program, they receive Space Foundation training and resources to further integrate space into their classrooms. The program is open to public, private and homeschool teachers and school administrators, including principals, specialists, curriculum and instruction developers and administrators and others who deliver education programs to students.

Applications for the Teacher Liaison program are being accepted by the Space Foundation until early December. Learn how to apply here


This article is part of Space Watch: June 2015 (Volume: 14, Issue: 6).