This summer, the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow program, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competition that challenges public school students in grades 6-12 to showcase how STEM can be applied to help improve their community, hosted its second annual Teacher Academy. The Academy is a week-long program offering teachers from across the U.S. with a unique professional development experience designed to build and sustain a culture of STEM teaching and learning.
The participating Academy teachers are all Solve for Tomorrow alumni who collectively earned over $1.5 million in technology and classroom materials for their respective schools this year. Having just adapted to teaching during a pandemic, 65 teachers from 39 states now became remote learning students, attending Academy sessions supported by Solve for Tomorrow partner, mindSpark Learning. The curriculum included exercises that tackled how to implement problem-based learning (PBL) in a virtual world and how to create an empathetic learning environment.
The ability to form relationships through the Teacher Academy is invaluable.
With a mission of cultivating a community of STEM professionals by providing the teachers with the tools and resources needed to be successful, Samsung, mindSpark Learning and the teachers brainstormed creative ways to take on the upcoming school year and its unique set of challenges. It should go without saying that the Samsung team found the second cohort of educators – much like the first – to be inspiring. Their enthusiasm reverberated in Academy chat rooms and video conferences as they formulated new ways in which to integrate STEM into compelling lesson plans and devised enriching learning environments for their students.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. And teachers are the key to unlocking student potential – especially in STEM. The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Teacher Academy aims to provide inspiring and meaningful programming for Solve for Tomorrow teachers that included unique professional development experiences and pathways that will help them on their journey in guiding their students,” said Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America. “With the 2020 Teacher Academy class, we’ve also built upon our network of vibrant STEM educators. We saw the power of the peer network come to life at the tail end of the last school year, and we believe the second cohort will support each other in making learning more accessible and effective for students in the upcoming school year.”
“The ability to form relationships through the Teacher Academy is invaluable,” said Joseph Giandurco, a middle school science teacher at Ponus Ridge Middle School in Connecticut and Solve for Tomorrow contest state finalist in 2020. “I have a binder full of information and resources now, along with the support of the Professional Learning Community groups that we formed.”
“The Samsung team is honored to work with these inspirational, hand-raising teachers who came together during a truly unprecedented time to challenge themselves, develop new teaching strategies, and grow for both their benefit and the benefit of their students,” shared Michele Mosa, Senior Manager of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America. “These remarkable educators are being pulled in multiple directions. They made the decision to invest more than 2,600 hours collectively on learning new teaching methods, preparing for the unknowns of next year, and joining a network of education allies to guide them along the way.”
As part of the Academy curriculum, Samsung employees from subsidiaries across the U.S. such as Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Samsung Research America, Samsung Semiconductor, Samsung Electronics Home Appliance, Samsung NEXT and Samsung Electronics America, were invited to speak at an employee roundtable with the teachers about their STEM career journeys.
When you have a female student interested in participating in the Solve for Tomorrow program, encourage her to invite her friends to participate too.
“My favorite part of the program was the opportunity to meet with Samsung employees,” shared Dolly Bergen, a high school physics teacher in California and a national finalist in 2018. “The employees shared amazing advice and reemphasized that students should network and participate in internships.”
One teacher asked how he can get more young women involved in the Solve for Tomorrow contest and STEM classes. Katie Van Strander, Senior TR in Material Technology with Samsung Austin Semiconductor shared her experiences in the STEM field. While highlighting that there were not many women in her higher education classes, she has seen good strides in the professional setting with more women represented in the STEM field. “It’s important for young girls to have role models. When you have a female student interested in participating in the Solve for Tomorrow program, encourage her to invite her friends to participate too.”
Pedro Martínez López, a Think Tank Team Research Engineer at Samsung Research America, participated in the employee roundtable last year and came back for another year. “Programs like Solve for Tomorrow and the Teacher Academy can have a huge impact. In regards to PBL, I was lucky to experience this kind of teaching in school. And contests, like Solve for Tomorrow, are a great way for students from all walks of life to realize their potential, meet like-minded peers, and networking with a company like Samsung is a great opportunity.”
Overall, PBL lessons in leadership, disruption and empathy, along with peer network opportunities, were deemed invaluable as the educators head ‘back to school.’
When asked what piece of advice they would share with other teachers gearing up for the academic year ahead, Dolly responded with the importance of practicing self-care. “Put one hour per day on your calendar for yourself to do something you enjoy. Teachers are caring people and are often giving, and you can’t give if your cup is empty.”
Joseph echoed the sentiment, “Try to relax. And remember we’re all adapting to these changes. Taking it day by day helps.”