WW. Lewis teacher named National STEM Scholar

Published 7:58 am Friday, May 26, 2023

W.W. Lewis Middle School Science and Engineering teacher Sarah StCyr is one of 10 teachers across the country to be named a 2023 National STEM Scholar.

The National STEM Scholar Program is a result of the partnership between the National Stem Cell Foundation and The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University that annually grants a handful of STEM teachers the opportunity to network with peers, develop themselves professionally and develop an innovative STEM based-project at their schools.

This is the eighth year of the National STEM Scholar program.

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StCyr submitted her application at the suggestion of her former coworker Diana Fultz. Winning the grant, however, was a surprise. “I did not expect to get it at all!”

“I’ve been in the sciences my whole career, first as a researcher and then a teacher, so I’m honored to accept the award.”

Applicants submitted descriptions of the “big idea Challenge Project.” The winners are chosen based on student impact.

StCyr’s project is a design studio that will allow her students to explore the art of engineering. Her students will design and build designs, working with materials like wood, hardware and “anything else we can get our hands on.”

As a way to give back, she said the students will also be building furniture to place throughout the school and community.

The National STEM Scholar Program will financially support the development and implementation of the design studio.

As a part of the program, StyCr will be joining the other nine educators at the 2023 National STEM Scholar class on the campus of WKU in Bowling Green, Kentucky from May 29 to June 2. During the class, hosted by The Gatton Academy, she will connect with other professionals, workshop ideas and flesh out her project.

StyCr’s ultimate goal as an educator is to encourage her students to pursue careers in STEM through explorative scientific education.

At the start of her career, she worked in neuroscience research at Pennington Biomedical and LSU Health Science Center.

After some time, she moved back to Southwest Louisiana to be closer to family and start one of her own. After moving back, she shifted gears. “SWLA didn’t have the kind of research I was doing in Baton Rouge, so I decided to get my Master’s to teach Science,” she recalled.“I figured if I couldn’t do the science then the next best thing would be to get more kids interested in doing it themselves one day.”

She especially wants to support and inspire the girls in her classroom. She believes that if she had been exposed to the possibilities for women in STEM when she was in middle school, her life might have taken a different course.

“I know that had I been told that girls could be engineers – and even what an engineer does really – when I was in the 7th grade, I would’ve definitely gone down that career path,” she said. “I wanted to be an astronaut until I got to middle school and decided it wasn’t for girls. There just weren’t enough people like me out there in the public eye actually doing science.”

She has now taught for sixteen years and teaches seventh grade science. During office hours, she teaches seventh and eighth grade students engineering alongside her co-worker Amanda Dougherty.

The pair, in partnership with Citgo, will expand this class into a school wide STEM program. “Future W.W. Lewis Revels will be medical detectives, designers, app creators and environmental engineers and we can’t wait!”

She believes that middle school is the most critical time to engage kids in STEM.

She cited a lack of in-depth science education in elementary courses .“When they get to me they’re still curious and naïve about how the natural world works.”

The students are rearing to learn and receptive to the lessons when engaged. “If we can hook them a little at this age then they might be more willing to pursue further studies in high school.”

Luckily for StCyr and her students, the one of best things about science is that it is fun. “STEM lends itself to imagination, problem solving, thinking off the wall and most importantly curiosity.”

Curiosity is the key. In science, the journey is more important than the destination. “We’ll never have all the answers, it’s the process of figuring things out that really matters.”