A Skeptic Becomes a STEM Change Agent

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The Facts

In 2012, Northglenn High School leadership announced plans to transform the school into a full comprehensive STEM school in hopes of increasing student retention and improving its graduation rate. Staff was given the option to retain their positions if they committed to working the STEM model for one academic year with support and resources from the school. If after one year a teacher decided the model wasn’t for them, Adams 12 vowed to place them elsewhere in the district.

The initial announcement was not well received by staff, as the complexity of implementing the STEM model was notoriously time and labor intensive. AP Social Studies teacher JP Sampson was very vocal about his skepticism for the model. However, he agreed to try it for one year, determined to prove how hard it would be to sustain as a teaching method.

The Methods

Sampson coordinated his first problem-based learning (PBL) project with remaining doubts. As the executive director and principal monitored his students’ progress, he became more encouraged by student engagement and enthusiasm. Many of his students reported they hadn’t thought about social studies issues by collaborating on solutions. While it proved challenging for them, Sampson and his students found themselves passionate in their discussions and solutions.

As the year unfolded, Sampson engaged more with the STEM model and attended professional development workshops to fine-tune his STEM teaching methods.

The Results

Following the success of his first year, Sampson became an advocate and advisor for the STEM model. He was an integral part of integrating STEM into the social studies department and mentoring colleagues on best practices.

Following his tenure at Northglenn High School, Sampson took an assistant principal position at another Denver-area high school, where he introduced the STEM model.