The Diversity in STEM Award was recently announced by miniPCR to celebrate champions of diversity in STEM education. Today we’re proud to announce the first Diversity in STEM awardee: Mr. Gavin Smith, science teacher at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Mr. Smith strives to provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the areas of science, technology, and engineering, within a science department that is dedicated to fostering intellectual curiosity and engaging students in inquiry-based investigations.
As a teacher my focus is to expose my students to many opportunities within the STEM field and show them that they can be anything they want to be.
Applications for the Diversity in STEM Award are now open. Each award is endowed with $1,500 in miniPCR store credit (redeemable for products or shipping charges; not redeemable for cash.) We seek to identify and announce three additional awardees during the Spring 2018 school calendar. Submissions are due by April 29, 2018. Find the application form through this link.
Where do you teach? Briefly describe your community.
I teach at John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science where over 62 percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch. We have a student body population where over 89 percent are minority students. We are the third exam school in the district which many people are unaware of so we have high rates of students attending college. Within this environment however students are not attending great colleges. As a school of Math and Science our intended focus is Math and Science, but it has not been this for a number of years.
As a minority male who went to school and studied science I know the impact STEM can have on students. It is my goal to make many of my students goals a reality.
Share an example of impact you’ve had in STEM diversity.
As a teacher my focus is to expose my students to many opportunities within the STEM field and show them that they can be anything they want to be. Many of my students come in wanting to be doctors, nurses or something in the medical field. Many of these students also have no idea what that means. In my class we do many hands on activities and labs that would typically be present in an AP class. My goal is to prepare each student I have to be able to take an introductory college Biology class and pass it.
Last year for the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) Biology test my 52 of my 72 students scored advance, which outdid the numbers for the last four years at my school combined. This was my first year at this school, but since I have been here I have taken part in the AMGEN Biotech Experience to help provide my students with opportunities to familiarize themselves with careers in Biotechnology.
I will start a BioTechnology club here which would make the labs I do as part of the AMGEN Biotech Experience more accessible to students who do not have the pleasure of being in my class.
I have also created many partnerships including one with Phillips Exeter’s MS2 program, MIT’s SEED Academy, Minds Matter Boston and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Through numerous grants and outside funding I have been able to get the majority of the equipment needed to have a fully functioning lab. In two weeks MIT’s Edgerton Center will be coming in to do a Professional Development event and donate some of their supplies to the biology department and we have recently acquired new lab materials and dissecting kits.
Overall my students from last year come back to me seeking opportunities in the STEM field they often talk about their experiences last year and how it prepared them for opportunities they are taking advantage of such as a Dana Farber Research opportunity that exists here after school. Although all of these things have been accomplished, I am not satisfied with my progress and am continuing to look for as many partnerships and opportunities for my students to maximize their potential as I possibly can.
How will you invest your Award ($1,500 in miniPCR store credit)? What do you plan to do?
I will start a BioTechnology club here which would make the labs I do as part of the AMGEN Biotech Experience more accessible to students who do not have the pleasure of being in my class. I would also be able to better design and support other labs for such an endeavor. I do not believe this is a lofty goal, but would love support in doing so.
Tell us why diversity in STEM is your passion.
As a minority male who went to school and studied science I know the impact STEM can have on students. It is my goal to make many of my students goals a reality. Going to college from an underserved community and experiencing the many hardships that I did in my transition drives me to make sure my students do not have the same experience. I want them to go into college, enroll in any science class and feel confident that what they learned in high school prepared them for what they will be learning in their next experiences. For my peers in college this seemed to be their experience. I think it is only right that this is the experience of my students as well.
— Congratulations, Mr. Smith! We’re very proud of your work.
— Applications are now open for the miniPCR Diversity in STEM Award: