Five teachers from Hickerson Elementary School have been named part of the Tennessee Rural STEM Collaborative, a year-long cohort of educators from across Tennessee that works to offer high-quality learning opportunities in STEM through 21st Century Skills and local STEM career pathways. 

“I had five teachers apply (for the program). They choose from all over the state. Forty teachers were chosen – five are coming from this school,” said Hickerson Principal Jimmy Anderson.

He said that the teachers will visit STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schools see new ways to incorporate STEM in the classroom, network and work on STEM lessons.

“They will be able to experience those things in those types of schools, and develop their own capacity of what STEM is and what it should look like in their own classrooms,” Anderson said.

“I’m really proud of the teachers. Five applied and all five were admitted into the program,” Anderson added.

The teachers were kindergarten teacher Amy Hershman, fourth and fifth grade reading teacher Erica Patterson, fourth and fifth grade math teacher Katherine Gable and fifth science and social studies Randa Prater and fourth and fifth grade science teacher Todd Reinholtz.        

Hickerson has a strong involvement with STEM.

“Last year we worked hard on implementing STEM, Trying to help our students understand how STEM can fit into everything that they do,” Anderson said. “There are not necessarily STEM careers, but there’s STEM in every career.”

The school is on track to gain the designation STEM School.

“We are working toward that designation still. Last year we realized that we weren’t quite ready to turn in our application to the state. This year we’re looking to do that by the end of the school year.” 

The Rural STEM Collaborative program is designed to develop teacher leadership capacity, strengthen innovative instructional strategies, and provide a collaborative network for educators in rural areas.

“I think this a great opportunity for our kids,” said Prater. “It’s going to help them be more career ready. And help us be better prepared for the future.”

Patterson said that it was a great opportunity for the school to build relationships in the community. This is one of the goals that Anderson hopes to highlight this year.

As a kindergarten teacher, Hershman is excited to see how STEM will advance her students as they progress through grade levels.

Gable, a relative newcomer to the profession with this being her second year in the classroom, said that she is excited to see how the initiative will help her develop as a teacher. 

According to program information, “Each participant will plan a targeted STEM initiative to pilot in their local context and will be provided a stipend to support the implementation of their initiatives.”