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Westwood science teacher 1 of only 50 chosen for national science fellowship in D.C.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

Staff Writer
John Coffelt

Westwood Middle School’s seventh grade science teacher Deb Wimberley will join a group of 50 elite educators from various schools across the nation to attend a Siemens STEM Institute Program this summer in Washington D.C.STEM Teacher

Westwood assistant principal Jeff Johnson said, “The school is very proud of this accomplishment. The recognition is well-deserved by an educator who is innovative and has the students best interests at heart.”

The STEM Institute selects 50 educators from around the nation to attend “a hands-on, immersion program promoting STEM education at the Discovery Communications headquarters … as part of the Siemens STEM Academy, a national professional development community designed to advance the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States,” according to Siemens.

President of the Siemens Foundation Jeniffer Harper-Taylor in a press release said, “This is such a unique and rewarding program that allows educators from across the country to not only come together and collaborate but then gives them new tools they can take back into their classrooms and implement as they create engaging learning environments for their students.”

Johnson described the selection as a prestigious recognition for Wimberley and honor for the school.

“Of the 50 selected, it’s not necessarily one from each state. Last year … no one was even chosen from Tennessee,” he said. “She’s in a very select group.”

STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Wimberley is heading up the Family STEM and Stars Night to be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m., March 28, at Westwood that is primarily for the students of Westwood and the city fifth grades, but will also be open to the public.

“We wanted to provide things in [STEM] that are hands-on – not just listening to lectures,” Wimberley said.

She said that the program, part of an action plan from an earlier STEM program fellowship she attended at Oak Ridge, Tenn., was momentarily conceived as a career fair.

“I wanted to show them that there are so many different opportunities. I wanted to show them STEM in a different way,” she said.  “This comes from the thought process of how could I get things in front of kids and let them see what’s available. And this is just a smidgen of what’s out there that can excite them about science.

“Working for Apple…Nissan…the [Coffee County] Soil Conservation…all of those are STEM fields.”

One reoccurring theme brought up by industry leaders is the scarcity of qualified applicants. Preparation, Wimberley says, begins with foundations in science and that needs to happen in middle school.

“The top jobs that are coming out are going to be in some type of STEM,” she said. “Making them aware of what they have to, the foundations they have to have in science and math – they have to start in middle school. ”

She said that getting students interested in science is key.

“I think it’s about turning the tide on making it cool to be a geek. This [event] is part of that.”

She cautioned that one danger is the stereotype that the STEM fields are limited to only the smartest students.

“I want kids to see that there are so many things for them to do regardless of whether they are straight-A students in science and math.”

Johnson explained that sometimes students don’t see the ties between science class and the real-world applications.

“That’s what a lot of this is about – expanding their horizons and making them aware that some of this going on in the workforce is exactly related to the contents relayed in school.  There is a disconnect. This is about building that connection to jobs all around them that [they] are not aware of.”

Presenting at the event will be over 13 of some of the area’s top technology authorities, Hands-on Science Center, Nissan, Vanderbilt University, Air Evac, Coffee County Soil Conservation District, NASA, the United States Army, Middle Tennessee State University, the AEDC STEM Center and APPLE Inc.

The main presenter is Motlow State Community College professor and nationally-known figure in the astronomy community, Billy Hix will present his See the Stars planetarium exhibit, a 25-foot inflatable planetarium, and at 7:30 p.m. he will hold a Star Party on the Westwood football field.

Wimberly said that that Family STEM and Stars Night is a community-type event and anyone is welcome to attend. The variety of events should be approachable by students of all ages and academic levels.

Free hamburgers or hotdogs, chips, desserts and drinks will be served in the cafeteria








The Siemens STEM Academy is a collaborative effort of the Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education, Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the College Board to empower and celebrate excellence in science, technology, engineering and math education. As the premier online professional development community for STEM educators, over 300,000 teachers from across the United States exchange and download resources, participate in and view webinars, obtain up-to-date STEM news and network with their peers. Additionally, each year the STEM Academy selects top educators from around the country to participate in the Siemens Teachers as Researchers (STARs) programs, (2) two-week professional development experiences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In addition, 50 educators are chosen to participate in the Siemens STEM Institute, a one-week professional development initiative at Discovery Communications headquarters in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit

About the Siemens Foundation

The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Its signature programs include the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, a STEM research competition for high school students, Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, a sustainability challenge which encourages K-12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues and the Siemens STEM Academy, a national educator professional development program designed to support educators in their efforts to foster student achievement in STEM fields. By supporting outstanding students and educators today, and recognizing the mentors and schools that inspire STEM educational excellence, the Foundation helps nurture tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. The Foundation’s mission is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens’ U.S. companies. For further information, visit or follow @sfoundation

About Discovery Education

Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content that supports the implementation of Common Core, professional development, assessment tools, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Available in over half of all U.S. schools, community colleges and in 50 countries around the world, Discovery Education partners with districts, states and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that accelerate academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Explore the future of education