Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Nationally Certified STEM Campus, Spencerville Adventist Academy

Spencerville Adventist Academy Earns National STEM Certification

Story by Paty Serrano

Spencerville Adventist Academy (SAA) recently earned the National Certificate for STEM Excellence (NCSE), a Campus Certification from the National Institute for STEM Education (NISE). SAA is one of only 56 schools in the nation to have earned this national certificate.

NCSE provides a research-based support system for campuses and teachers seeking to strengthen STEM instruction and outcomes. NISE STEM leadership coaches worked with SAA’s educators and instructional leaders to refine the school’s operations and curriculum instruction to further strengthen STEM practices and the campus’ overall STEM culture.

To secure the NCSE Campus Certification, faculty had to earn the National Certificate for STEM Teaching (NCST), further contributing to the school’s collective STEM expertise. Kim Terry and Gabrielle Agwu, elementary STEM coordinator and technology teacher, respectively, earned this certification during the 2020–21 school year. Viara Levterova and Rachel Fuentes, high school foreign languages teacher and second-grade teacher, respectively, are working toward their certification this school year.

Both the NCSE and NCST certifications are pivotal to the continued development of SAA’s STEM program. Tissiana Bowerman, SAA head principal, says, “STEM helps students learn how to be part of a team and be adaptable. It also develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills, builds resilience and fosters creativity.”

To complete the campus STEM certification process, a STEM leadership committee comprised of teachers from a variety of grade levels and disciplines, as well as an administrator, a parent representative, a school board representative and a STEM coach from NISE, had weekly virtual meetings during the 2020–21 school year. The team successfully completed the process in nine months, even when faced with challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alyssa Caruthers (’22) says, “Having a STEM program at SAA has helped me discover skills I never knew I had and advance the ones I already had. It is a blessing to participate in the STEM program at my school, and I am certain that all that I have learned will continue to benefit me in the future.”

Fuentes adds, “STEM education allows my second-grade students to take risks during learning activities as they work to solve problems. It builds their confidence and perseverance as they learn to push through the challenging lessons that will shape how they approach problems in the future.”

Under the guidance of SAA’s STEM leadership team, this year the school will focus on five specific STEM standards from NISE: student-to-student interactions; 21st century skills; engineering design process; authenticity of the driving question; and real-world connections. Monthly small group meetings will be held under the guidance of a STEM leadership coach to focus on a specific STEM standard.

Coach-led small groups offer teachers the opportunity to have discussions, hands-on practice and ask questions regarding STEM education best practices.

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