Tina Gleason

STEM Teacher, recipient of the 2018 Excellence in Teaching Economics and Personal Finance Award by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and Economics Wisconsin

STEM Education: Working Together to Make It a Game Changer

Topics: STEM Outreach.

I've been a Milwaukee Public School teacher for 24 years. When I started, I taught English. Then math. And for the past seven years, I've been teaching STEM classes for middle school students at Golda Meir School for the Gifted and Talented.

The great thing about STEM and the national curriculum I teach, through Project Lead the Way, is that it's hands-on, collaborative learning. Students work together in teams, and as a result, we see more students wanting to actively be involved, because they don't feel the pressure they might feel in a regular classroom. There are no traditional exams; students are assessed on the projects they work on and whether they understand the concepts. It's an approach to learning that’s a game changer for some students – it really comes to life when we partner with organizations like Northwestern Mutual that commit much-needed resources to advance STEM education.

We started working with Northwestern Mutual three years ago as part of its hi, Tech program when we visited the company for a field trip. Then, Northwestern Mutual challenged our students to participate in a competition to create a game using the programming language Scratch. (We won the top six prizes.) More recently, we applied for a grant that would allow us to focus on engaging African Americans, minorities and young women in computer science, and were awarded $24,000 from Northwestern Mutual to fund the initiative. Once a week, the students would spend two and a half hours after school learning about computer science; how to code using block coding, JavaScript and other programs.

This year, Irissol Arce, Assistant Director of STEM Strategy at Northwestern Mutual, came back to me and said, "What else can we do to support you?" I told her some of my students have excelled to a level that’s beyond my personal expertise, and I want to make sure they are given opportunities to continue learning and growing. So, she brought in experts from Northwestern Mutual and Young Enterprising Society to work directly with my sixth graders. The volunteers treated our students like employees – helping them see how each person has a job to do and how to bring it all together for success. That really got the kids excited. They couldn't wait to be part of it all and see what they were able to accomplish.

Until that point, I know some of my students didn't really like coming to class. But that changed with this exposure to the real-world; an experience that opened their eyes to what's possible. They learned about jobs they didn't even know existed, and could see how a career in engineering, for example, could be applied to whatever they're passionate about – sports engineering, fashion design engineering, software engineering, even food engineering. New STEM-related careers are being created all the time.

Thanks to the commitment of organizations like Northwestern Mutual, it's thrilling to watch our kids grow and share what they're learning. They're becoming advocates for STEM and will keep the movement going for the next generation of students – which, I think, is what hi, Tech is all about.

Tina Gleason is the recipient of numerous awards for her work with students in STEM.

  • In 2019, she was awarded the Kohl’s Teacher Fellowship award, which recognizes and supports teaching excellence and innovation in Wisconsin.
  • During the 2017-2018 school year, she was the recipient of a new award created by the parents at Golda Meir School for the Gifted and Talented, the "Gleason Global Geek Achievement Award," with the expectation that each year moving forward she recognizes a student with the award.
  • During the 2016-2017 school year, she was awarded the 2016 Excellence in STEM Award, presented by STEM Forward, a local nonprofit connecting businesses and schools.
hi, Tech: We're Changing Tech Education for the Better

For brothers Danny and Omar Andrade, STEM outreach is a family affair. Learn what draws them to volunteering and how they believe programs like hi, Tech are changing the game for tech education.