I’ve mentioned that my husband is a middle school STEM teacher and figured it was time to finally introduce him to you. He is phenomenal teacher with a passion (and patience) for teaching middle school students. He started out as a music teacher, teaching drumline while he was in college, and his love for teaching has only grown.
Starting with Mark, I think it would be beneficial to start interviewing STEM educators giving you an inside look into who they are as well as what their classrooms look like. In this post, I’ll introduce you to Mark. In the next post, we will give you a tour of Mark’s classroom and curriculum.
If there are other questions you would like me to be asking, please let me know and I will be sure to have them added.
If you are STEM teacher who would like to be featured, please contact me!
Who: Mark Ochs
Education: University of Reno, Nevada – Masters in Education, Emphasis in Science
Grade: 7th and 8th
What led you to a career as a STEM teacher?
I originally wanted to be a core science teacher when I finished my Masters. However, as I was applying to schools in the area, I was contacted by a school I had formally student taught at. I was offered a job to transform their outdated and underutilized technology elective classroom into an advanced middle school STEM lab.
What was your biggest challenge starting out?
This biggest challenge was coming in without any prior STEM lab educator experience. I did a lot of research, self-teaching, and spending time in the existing STEM labs at other middle schools in the district. I built relationships with those STEM teachers and was able to learn a lot from them, as well as bounce ideas off of them. We still meet on a monthly basis discussing our curriculum and strategies within our classrooms.
How do you prepare and continue developing your STEM lab?
The students are a great resource. I ask them a lot of questions to see what is interesting to them. When looking for new lessons or projects, I bring in new technology and ask the students to try it out for me and tell me what they think. Based off of their engagement, I know if it will be a valuable tool to use moving forward, or if it is something to pass on.
I continue to meet with fellow STEM teachers. We talk about what is working for us and what isn’t. We talk through the successes and failures in the classroom. I also work with the core Math and Science teachers in my school. I like to incorporate the concepts they are teaching into practical applications for the students when they get to my class. The students see how the knowledge they are gaining in one class transpires directly into another application. The school district is partnered with Creative Learning Systems which is a great resource for learning tools. I use as much or as little of their content as I need to.
I also ask my wife(that’s me!) what she feels students should start learning now to prepare them for a career in STEM. She convinced me to buy a 3D printer and now CAD is a main module for my 8th graders. After I integrated the 3D printer into my classroom, and showed my fellow STEM teachers, many of them followed in suit.
What continuing education do you invest in?
- I participate in professional development through the school district. These are typically STEM and classroom management specific.
- I attend conferences such as those by Project Lead The Way and Advanced Facilitators Development with Creative Learning Systems.
- I’m going to space camp! I was recently accepted to Honeywell Educators at Space Academy and will be attending the week long experience this summer of 2017.
- I am also enrolled in The Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute (NSUAVCSI). This has provided hands on experience building, coding, and launching underwater and aerial vehicles. Included in this program is access to multiple types of drones to bring into my classroom for the students.
- I am always signing up and applying for courses to further my own STEM education. The more I learn, the more I can bring to my students.
Do you have a favorite moment as a STEM teacher?
The iconic “Ah ha!” moment is my favorite! When that light bulb switches on and the student becomes really excited for finally grasping the concept or solving the problem at hand, I think I get more excited than the student!