By: Guest Blogger
Editor’s Note: On Jan. 21, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria hosted a screening and panel discussion of the movie “Hidden Figures.” The event explored what we can do to continue to engage and inspire young people—especially women of color—to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. The Department collaborated with Battelle, COSI, The Ohio State University, Columbus State and Wilberforce University on the event. In honor of Black History Month, we invited Donnie Perkins to expand on the insights he provided at the event for this blog post.
Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and numerous other colleagues, known as the “West Area Computers,” are finally receiving their due from another African-American woman, Margot Shetterly, in her book and Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures.” President Barack Obama also recognized Katherine Johnson, a physicist, scientist and mathematician, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her service to NASA.
As a native of North Carolina during the Jim Crow era, I know firsthand the impact of racism, including the sting of colored and white schools, bathrooms and water fountains. Despite legalized segregation, pernicious racism, sexism and blatant hate throughout society, the West Area Computers—these “Sheros”—made major contributions to NASA and the space program. We stand on their shoulders!
I applaud the faith, dignity, courage, tenacity and academic and engineering excellence of the named and unnamed West Area Computers. They demonstrated the long-held African-American adage: “You have to work three times as hard to get half as far as the white man and still you will have miles to go.” Johnson, Vaughan, Jackson and their co-workers are true role models for ambitious women of all races and backgrounds today.
Shetterly’s book and movie raised several questions for me. Why has this true story remained hidden for so long? Why wasn’t this set of facts included in my history, science, math or engineering curriculum and textbooks throughout my educational experience? Are there more “unsung heroes” that we do not know about? Students should ask these questions every day, and teachers and faculty should be prepared to respond in the affirmative.
This true story offers insights on two levels—opportunity loss and the strength of diversity. Continued segregation and discrimination rob our society of great talent, innovation and leadership in engineering. It also demonstrates that intellect and talent are not vested in one group or another, that diverse teams, despite rampantly inequality, can achieve great things that benefit all citizens of our nation and the world. Just imagine what we could do when the nation decides to value and leverage our differences and similarities in pursuit of equality and justice for all and the American dream.
Our country and the world need more talented engineers. African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Americans and other underrepresented citizens—female and male—are a ready source. I offer a call to action:
Encourage women and diverse students to ask questions, particularly about the history of their ancestors’ contributions to American engineering, science, technology, innovation and culture.
Encourage teachers and faculty to research and include the contributions and innovations of women and diverse citizens in their curriculum and textbooks at each level of our education system.
Set high academic expectations for all students and support their efforts to achieve excellence.
Promote greater awareness of the engineering profession with increased collaboration between K-12 schools and colleges of engineering.
The truth cannot be hidden; excellence always rises to top. Diversity and inclusion drive excellence!
Donnie Perkins is chief diversity officer for the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, where he leads college-wide initiatives that advance outcomes and integrate diversity and inclusion into the fabric and culture of the college. You can contact Donnie by clicking here.
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By: Julia Simmerer
Veterans working toward becoming teachers in the state of Ohio have allies in their transitions to second careers. Not only has Ohio eliminated educator license fees for veterans and active duty service members and their spouses, but the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services will soon work together to administer the Ohio Troops to Teachers program, providing significant support to military service members during each stage of becoming a teacher in Ohio.
Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program collaborates with the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Troops to Teachers program. The program’s mission and purpose is to assist eligible military personnel in their pursuit of teaching as a second career in public schools where their skills, knowledge and experience are most needed to relieve teacher shortages — especially in math, science, special education and other critical subject areas.
The Office of Educator Effectiveness, within the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Department of Education, recently applied for a grant to significantly increase the funding of Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program. With this grant, the departments of Education and Veterans Services seek to increase the depth and breadth of Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program services.
Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program has the capability of providing substantial assistance to current and former service members seeking employment in Ohio as teachers. These veterans often run into hurdles that can complicate the process of becoming a teacher.
Undecided on committing to becoming a teacher as your second career? Speak with one of our program staff members who will be visiting college and university veterans centers, military organizations, and transition and education seminars across the state. Overwhelmed at the thought of transitioning careers, navigating the process of applying for a license and obtaining a teaching position? Visit Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program website and reach out to program staff members who are dedicated to individually counseling members of Ohio’s Troops to Teachers. Worried about finding a job or how to make the greatest impact through your service as a teacher? Work with Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program to identify open teaching positions, especially in critical areas such as the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. After fees are waived for active and veteran service members and their spouses, is it still not economically feasible to obtain an educator license or move your family in order to secure a teaching position? Apply through Troops to Teachers for a stipend or bonus to help ease these financial burdens.
I am proud our office has submitted a request for these grant funds, as I see Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program as just one of the many ways we can give back to our active duty and veteran service members who have sacrificed so much to serve and protect us. I hope that with these additional funds, we can reach out to even more veterans who are interested in becoming teachers and that our Troops to Teachers program can ease some of their burdens in continuing to serve the students of our state.
Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.
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By: Paolo DeMaria
Last fall, I invited Ohio’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students to join the conversation about one of the biggest problems facing our state — the opioid crisis. I worked with the Ohio STEM Learning Network to issue a design challenge for students. I asked them to come up with innovative solutions to opioid abuse in our state. I know that Ohio’s youth are a great source of creativity and brilliance. So, I was not surprised when more than 1,200 students responded to the challenge and came up with hundreds of possible solutions.
On May 18, Battelle hosted the Opioid Solutions Showcase, where some of the best ideas were shared. These included a pill bottle that could be programmed to limit medication doses and an app that allowed concerned family members to track the whereabouts of a person struggling with addiction. I was really inspired by these young people. In the video, I interviewed a student team from the Dayton STEM Academy. The team created a piece of legislation that addresses the opioid crisis. The project is a fantastic example of how STEM education is so much more than rigorous coursework in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is actually about project-based learning that allows kids to apply the skills they learn from a variety of classes to real-world problems.
Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.
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