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Inside CPS

News and Stories from across the District

Finding the Perfect Role as a STEM Specialist

16 May 2024

By Ms. LaTina Taylor, STEM Technology Specialist at Langston Hughes STEM Elementary School 

Ms. Taylor

I have been with CPS for 25 years, and I have had a very interesting pathway toward my focus on STEM. At my first school, I taught third grade, and we were in a very old school building. We learned that we were going to get a brand new building that would have internet and computers in the classroom. 

This was happening just as the internet was becoming more mainstream. I remember telling my husband about how the computer was going to change everything. He showed me how to make a PowerPoint presentation, and I said: “Woah, I think this is going to replace the chalkboard!” 

I worked on my very first PowerPoint presentation, which was about nouns. It had all of these bells and whistles! My 30 students were all looking at our one screen, and they were so engaged! I told my principal that she had to come to my classroom to see it in action. 

At the end of that school year, my principal asked me if I wanted to transition into a new role as the computer teacher. The rest is history. 

I’ve taken on a few different roles at different schools since then, and the focus on STEM seemed to grow with each new role that I accepted. At one school, I connected with the Shedd Aquarium to provide my students with an underwater robotics opportunity.

The first year we participated in a competition, it was an epic fail. The robot sank to the bottom of the pool. The kids were looking at me, and I didn’t know what to tell them. We were totally at the bottom of the leaderboard. The students had their heads down, and they were so sad. I told them to keep their heads up and that we were going to come back next year. 

Over the course of the next year, we improved our robot. We took it to the pool before the competition to make sure it wouldn’t sink again. When they announced the results this time, we got first place. Our robot earned us a lot of points, but what I think really put us over the top was how willing the students were to share how they turned their past failures into successes. 

I got to take those students to Florida for an international competition two years in a row. 

Memories like these are why I’ve become so passionate about STEM. There is always something fun and STEM-related happening at my current school. We recently hatched baby chicks. We’re growing lots of things in our Learning Garden. Students are making trellises. And our eighth-graders are building a six-foot-tall Ferris wheel that will be their lasting gift to our school. 

I hope that educators across our District will continue to embrace STEM as a platform for bringing engaging, hands-on learning into the classroom. I definitely think you can tackle it in baby steps and start with what is most comfortable for you, just as I did with my first PowerPoint presentation. 

You never know where embracing something new will take you.

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