Stories from the Field

California Casualty Awardee Melyssa Ferro: STEM Diversity

California Casualty Awardee Melyssa Ferro: STEM Diversity

Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Melyssa Ferro, a science educator at Syringa Middle School in Caldwell, Idaho.

I am a huge advocate of helping underrepresented groups find their place in the world of STEM. I helped create a collaborative effort between the English department and the science department. There have not been many chances for our two content areas to find common ground so when the Hidden Figures book and movie gained popularity, we decided to take advantage of that momentum to create a mentoring program at Syringa.

A group of seven female teachers from the English/language arts and science departments are meeting once a week after school with about 30 eighth grade Hispanic girls. We are reading the book together and having some great conversations about what it takes to succeed in the areas of math and science as a woman. We are eating together and laughing together. We do great hands-on science activities together that are based on rockets and the physics of flight.

Our goal is to end the book club with a rocket launch and a trip to watch the movie together as a group. We are already seeing results academically from these relationships that we are forming with these students. When we were sharing out some of our big takeaways, I got goosebumps when I heard one really quiet student say that she was excited to learn that there are scientists that look like her and that even though it would be hard, she would like to try to be like Ellen Ochoa when she gets older.

Meet more of the 2018 NEA Foundation awardees here. We’ll celebrate them at the 2018 Salute to Excellence in Education gala in February. Hope to see you there!