Engineer to Educator

Engineer to Educator

Sara B. Smith (Goose Creek High School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5879-8.ch006

Abstract

In this chapter, the author traces her path from youth all the way through her current status as a high school teacher. The author describes some of the benefits and difficulties experienced as a gifted and talented adult who has found herself in the role of teacher. The hope is that some of what she shares will stimulate thought and discussion about the present state of education and how to hold on to truly highly qualified educators. Our students need great teachers; teachers who are passionate, knowledgeable, and who are not afraid to push the status quo. Gifted and talented educators can provide a tough, lasting education. We can teach students more than the content. At the same time we are nurturing our students, we, too, need to be nurtured.
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My Story

I was born in Dover, New Hampshire in January of 1978. I was the first girl and fourth child for my parents, Stephen and Marguerite. We lived in a small trailer in a trailer park in Somersworth, New Hampshire. My dad worked for Continental Cablevision as the Director of Local Origination where he wrote, edited, and directed shows for the local cable channel. My mom was a stay-at-home-mom. In 1979, we moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and three more children joined the family. My dad worked at Fort Devens Army base.

Dad’s job relocated us to Augusta, Georgia in 1983 after the youngest child was born. It was there that I started kindergarten at Wheeler Road Elementary School. We moved to Hephzibah, Georgia, which is outside of Augusta. Shortly after that, I went to Floyd Graham Elementary for first and second grade. There is not much that I remember from school back then, but I know that we were the Panthers, and the little logo looked like the Pink Panther cartoon character. I tested into E.I.P., the Expansion of Interest Program, in the first grade. I also remember being in a reading group by myself in second grade as I was on a third grade reading level. I spent a lot of time doing my work on the steps of my class’s portable classroom by myself.

After I started third grade, we all moved to Frankfurt, Germany where my dad was the station manager of AFN (Armed Forces Network) Frankfurt radio station. I participated in the gifted pullout program there, too, and my teacher was Mr. Kipp. I remember using Apple computers and playing Carmen San Diego and the Oregon Trail games. I had lots of free time in my regular classes when I finished my work so my teacher let me go help the speech teacher do all of the testing for the kindergarteners.

When we returned from Germany, I was in the sixth grade. I had to retest for the gifted program. My mom told me that I was so hormonal that I sometimes “didn't know my own name” (M. Smith, personal communication, September 10, 2017). I failed the test twice. In high school, she had me retested, and I was the only student in the group who passed the test with a 100, the score necessary for acceptance.

High school was too easy. I took all honors classes when available. I took AP U.S. History in eleventh grade and AP Calculus in twelfth grade. My lowest grade was in English on each report card. Each year I received awards for the having the highest average in several subjects and in the grade overall. In 1996, I graduated valedictorian of a class of almost 300 students. There were so many students walking at graduation that I did not know. Schools tracked students back then, and Georgia offered a vocational diploma in addition to college prep. I took classes with the same 20 to 30 students for four years.

After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied Chemical Engineering. I worked hard to compete with those in my classes, and to keep up with my studies, while also participating in the college marching band, pep band, and as the college mascot. I worked every other semester in the cooperative education program starting in the spring of my sophomore year. I also worked for Kvaerner Metals whose offices were in downtown Pittsburgh. The projects that I worked on were related to steel making. I loved learning about those processes and really enjoyed going to a couple of steel mills. By my fourth semester of work, I had a lot of autonomy, and worked on projects with less immediate supervision.

After college graduation in 2000, I got a job with World Kitchen, Inc,. in Corning, New York. World Kitchen is a housewares company that owns OXO, Bakers Secret, Corelle, CorningWare, and Pyrex, among others. Corelle dishes are made at the facility in Corning. I got hired as a process engineer in the finishing department. The finishing department is where all of the decoration is put on the dishes, they are fired in the kiln, and packed into big boxes. I was tasked with studying the performance of a specific decorating machine, and helping to improve the output through operator training and machine operating hours.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Inquiry: An approach to teaching that requires students to seek out answers to problems and questions based on their level of existing knowledge, and requires teachers to facilitate that learning.

Chemical Engineer: One of the four main classifications of engineer with a focus on the application of chemical theory to produce products that satisfy the needs and wants of consumers.

Advanced Career: Problem-based curriculum published by the Southern Region Educational Board that focuses on teaching students skills and content that will help them be college and career ready upon completion of the program.

Southern Region Educational Board: Organization that works with 16 member states to improve education at all levels from pre-kindergarten to doctoral studies.

Project Lead the Way: A pre-engineering curriculum for students in grades 5 – 12 that provides them with exposure to the engineering design process in the context of several types of engineering disciplines.

Gifted and Talented: Classification given to those who have a natural ability to excel at learning, the arts, and problem-solving.

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