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STEM lab manager honored for outstanding work
Posted in on March 21, 2024

STEM lab managers surprised by superintendent

With more than 50 Arlington ISD elementaries with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) labs, it’s hard to pick which of the STEM lab managers is the most distinguished.

So, we don’t. We picked four. Every elementary school has a STEM lab manager who partners with other teachers to facilitate STEM learning in the labs for all students, pre-K through sixth grade.

On Wednesday, members of the Arlington ISD curriculum and instruction team, along with superintendent Dr. Matt Smith, surprised four of them for their outstanding work.

Moore Elementary STEM lab manager Regan Bullock received the top honor. Second place went to Little Elementary’s Christina Benites and third place went to Blanton Elementary’s Eric Powell. And Speer Elementary’s Sadia Ali received the honor for the most improved STEM lab. Each manager received a $200 or $300 check to go toward improving their respective labs.

The money won’t be spent until the managers get over the surprise of being honored.

“It’s really exciting,” said Bullock, who works with the 900 students at Moore. “I work really hard to do what’s best for the campus. I’m glad that carried over into the district. It’s challenging, but it’s really fun. STEM is so interesting.”

The honorees were among the 52 portfolios submitted for the award as 32 campuses participated. The purpose is to honor exemplary campuses for their STEM labs. The portfolios were scored by a panel using a rubric with criteria that included pre-K STEM, a percentage of STEM lab usage and student population usage.

Bullock set the bar high as 100% of her resources are clearly aligned and she’s able to work with all the students at the second-largest elementary school in the district.

Over at Little Elementary, Benites works hard to ensure that all teachers integrate STEM into the curriculum. It’s all-day work for Benites, who was speechless when Smith and other district officials walked into her STEM lab.

“It’s amazing to be honored,” said Benites, who has been with the district for five years, including the last 1 ½ years as the STEM lab manager.

“The teachers and I work so hard with these kids. They come in here, get out of the classroom and they love it. They get to get hands on and think outside the box. A lot of times kids don’t even realize what they’re doing involves STEM.”

Powell, Blanton’s STEM manager, knows exactly what he’s doing, and what he is doing is all about the kids.

“I love each and every kid,” said Powell, who won this award for the second year in a row. “There’s a saying, ‘Reach one teach one.’ That’s what it’s all about.”

He also knows exactly what he is going to do with the $300. Powell wants to implement more engineering in the lab and already has the equipment he’ll need picked out.

Ali at Speer knows what she wants to do with her prize money, too. And she also knows what she doesn’t want to do with it.

Fifth grade teacher Brian Poster was in the STEM lab with his class when Ali was presented with the award.

“Ms. Ali,” Poster joked, “when you think about spending the $200, I like coffee and chocolate.”

Ali did not miss a beat.

“Mr. Poster,” she said, “I already have a list in my mind.”

Poster had more to say, but this time he wasn’t joking.

“I’ve taught at different schools for a long time and have had different STEM lab associates and help,” he said. “You have far exceeded all of them. Without you, my job would have been impossible.”

STEM starts in pre-K

STEM education is a big priority in Arlington ISD, and it start early. In fact, STEM is infused in the district’s innovative pre-K 4 curriculum where fun and learning go hand-in-hand. Learn more about Arlington ISD’s pre-K and mark your calendar for April 1, the first day to register littler learners for pre-K next school year.