Alexis is a 5th grade teacher in South Carolina, a member of the 2023 Inspire the Future: FIRST® Educators Recognition Program cohort, and a FIRST® LEGO® League Explore mentor. She infuses STEAM into every subject she teaches by encouraging her students to ask questions and then dig for the answers. She says, “Learning math? Build it! Learning about force and motion? Let’s engineer it, crash it and fix it! Learning about U.S. history? Let’s draw it then animate it!” This approach has allowed her students to get creative when problem solving but also helped Alexis continue to learn right alongside of them. She says that every year, even if a project or lesson was previously taught, it becomes new and different with every group of students.
Read more about Alexis and her unique approach to teaching with STEAM below.
FIRST Staff: What is your favorite part of your current role?
Alexis: My favorite part of my job as a teacher/coach is to explore right alongside my students. Every project, even if it was done the year before, is new and different with every group of students. I love learning new things and seeing the out-of-the-box thinking that comes with being a kid!
FIRST Staff: What is the hardest part of your job?
Alexis: The hardest part of my job is managing the time and having to stop to move on to something new when we are having a think tank on a project or activity. I would love to have the time to let every kid explore all their ideas, but sometimes we have to leave new ideas to move on to new topics.
FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday work/life?
Alexis: My job constantly requires out-of-the-box thinking, new or fresh ideas and looking at things from a different perspective. STEAM really opens a lot of doors for so many people. When faced with a barrier, we sometimes have to come up with a creative solution to the problem. It sounds small, but things as simple as engineering a fix to a broken shoe can be a learning experience! Working with students, we have new questions to answer every day, and I am never afraid to admit “I am not sure, let’s test it or build it or research it!”
FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?
Alexis: I absolutely think a difference is being made in STEAM in my community. I think by offering FIRST® at my school and making it so visible, it is beginning to allow students to think about STEAM opportunities they have. The students on the team are pushed and challenged in a way of thinking that is not always available in the classrooms. Many of the students I have worked with have discovered a passion they didn’t think they would have. I am excited to say many leave me with thoughts of moving into a STEAM career!
FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?
Alexis: A “Person of STEAM” who inspires me is the teacher who introduced me to FIRST, Lori Holbrook, who is a teacher in Charleston County, SC. My first few years teaching she was an inspiration to keep going, build experimentation, include STEAM and how to inspire ALL kids. She is the reason my FIRST® LEGO® League team exists, and why I have a makerspace in my classroom!
FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Alexis: Find a FIRST team! I would tell my younger self to explore more STEAM options. I didn't really get into the STEAM topics until I became an adult and joined the teaching profession. I would tell myself to seek out more opportunities and try new things.
FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?
Alexis: My message for those participating in FIRST today is your coaches love you, believe in you and know you can solve any challenge. Remember, failure is proof you are trying and moving forward. Don’t discount yourself or say you are only good in one area. TRY ALL THE THINGS. And especially my older FIRST kids, you never know who you are inspiring, watch out for the little ones because they are your future!
Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.