Growing STEMs

Awards are nice, but for Caroline Hayes, it’s the students that matter.

On May 21, Hayes, a science teacher at Youngsville Elementary Middle School, was recognized with a Northwest PA STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teacher Recognition Award.

The award, which was sponsored by the Northwest region of the Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NWPASCD), was presented during the Northwest PA STEM conference at Grove City College on May 21.

“I am very thankful and honored to have received this award,” Hayes said, adding that there are lots of deserving teachers out there. “There are so many teachers who are doing remarkable things to positively impact our youth.”

But for Hayes, the award isn’t a big deal. She’s much more interested in talking about her students.

“My students are outstanding,” Hayes said. “I’m so fortunate to be able to teach them and to see them grow.”

At the time of the interview, Hayes was working with a sixth-grade science class on Rube Goldberg machines. She worked alongside them, acting more as peer adviser on the project than an order-issuing authoritarian.

She moved from student to student discussing possibilities, gathering ideas, integrating disparate parts and, occasionally, offering advice as she worked to help the class work as a whole. She let students work out technical details and, if their plans didn’t work out, worked with them to reformulate designs.

“My hope is that I can assist my students in becoming reasoned thinkers and innovators,” Hayes said. “I want them to come up with new and better ways to solve problems. The field of science is an ideal avenue through which to achieve that objective. Presenting my student with problem-posing, thought-provoking tasks is my goal.

“I’m just so grateful to have this opportunity to teach these students. They really are amazing.”