Through a partnership between the Orange County Department of Education and Orange County STEM Initiative, the Lead STEM Practitioner (LSP) Network includes triads of established and emerging teacher leaders from ten Orange County school districts.  Each district team will collaboratively investigate and address a unique challenge within their district that presents itself as an opportunity to strengthen STEM learning opportunities for all students.  District teams are selected through an application process, open to those districts that were past participants from Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 of the STEM Ecosystem program.

Guest Post By Holly Steele
STEM Administrator, Instructional Services
Orange County Department of Education

Our Lead STEM Practitioners (LSPs) came together on Thursday, May 3rd to celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on their development as leaders and STEM advocates over the course of the 2017-2018 school year. This year, for the first time, LSPs worked in triads from their district to magnify their impact on their home districts.

Each triad identified an area of need related to STEM education. Working collaboratively, with support from OCDE, they addressed their specific area of need in their district through professional learning opportunities and the development of key resources. Needs across the county varied widely based on district initiatives and areas of focus. For example, the team from Buena Park School District chose to support literacy initiatives by focusing on professional learning related to science and STEM notebooking. Orange Unified School District worked to develop an program for mentoring teachers in engineering design with the assistance of a professional engineer. Several others worked to develop teacher-friendly resources and instructional materials to support implementation of high-quality STEM education aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Not only did the LSP program work to address district areas of need, it also was purposefully designed to build leadership capacity within the Orange County STEM education community.

This provided me with a genuine opportunity to change the role as a classroom educator and play the role of a teacher leader. It allowed me the opportunity to see what steps the district has made prior to my involvement and the progression of the three year plan. It also challenged me to think and inquire what adult learners need versus a student. This was a great opportunity to grow professionally but also see learning and PD through an administrative lens.
– Krystal Valdenegro

Coming into this year, I really had no idea what to expect since this was my first year as a Lead STEM Practitioner. I have had some experience in doing some STEM challenges in the past, however have not had much formal training prior to LSP since this is only my second year of teaching. This year has taught me SO much about the importance of STEM in the classroom and how diversely it can enhance the learning of my students. I am so looking forward to continuing on with STEM next year in my classroom!

-Amy Dias

Our 2017-2018 Lead STEM Practitioners and the planning team at the Orange County Department of Education sincerely thank the Orange County STEM Initiative for their generous support of the program. We are already planning ahead for the 2018-2019 academic year!