STEM teachers ACES

(Left to right) Ashley Farlow from Overton High School, Carlee Darnell from Ashland City Elementary and Kristin McQueen from Ashland City Elementary will be observing procedures at the A.O. Smith facility next month to learn techniques to teach their STEM classes.

After being selected from more than 200 applicants, two Ashland City Elementary School teachers and an Overton High School teacher are preparing for a summer externship with A.O. Smith, which will help them teach students important skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The externship program, which will be from June 11-13, is put on by the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and sponsored by a grant from the Office of Naval Research. The program “seeks to prepare a future-ready workforce in the manufacturing and engineering sectors,” according to a news release from TSIN.

Only 22 teachers were selected for the program that places educators in local companies to learn about their employees’ duties, according to the release. Ashland City Elementary’s STEM teacher Kristin McQueen and classroom teacher Carlee Darnell found out in March that they’d both been accepted to the program. Ashley Farlow was also chosen.

“Our goal is to go and observe A.O. Smith and some of their manufacturers and try to gain some of the 21st century skills that they use,” Darnell said.

During the externship, the teachers will talk with a human resources director about what skills and traits she looks for in hiring. They will also get to do some hands-on learning of the daily procedures at the Ashland City water heater manufacturer.

One factor that may have helped Ashland City Elementary stand out is that it is in the two-year process of becoming a state-designated STEM school, McQueen said. The classification means the school uses STEM vocabulary and concepts in all classrooms and subjects, she said.

“It gives every child an opportunity to have a successful future,” McQueen said. “Some people need an opportunity to (work) right out of high school because that have a family to support … they will be making just as much money as someone who spent four years (in college).”

In the following school year, McQueen and Darnell will create a three-week, project-based learning program for their students based on what they learn in the externship.

“We have it in our heads that we’re going to try to do something with coding,” McQueen said. “We have some big ideas as far as using energy, coding and those kinds of things.”

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