Last week, Samsung Solve for Tomorrow (SFT) hosted its fourth annual Teachers’ Academy. The week-long program is designed to empower educators to inspire their students and tackle real-world problems, while exploring new ways to use science, technology, engineering, and math ( STEM) and problem-based learning. For the first time since the Academy launched in 2019, 35 teachers from across the country came together in person for an immersive professional development experience building on Solve for Tomorrow’s focus on STEM, problem-based learning and various environmental problems.
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is an annual national competition for public schools in grades 6-12 that challenges students to work together to create positive change in their communities using STEM. From start to finish, these bright young minds are empowered and supported by teachers as they take the initiative to push the boundaries of innovation.
Olivia Rowland, math teacher at Republic Middle School in Missouri and SFT state winner, explained the impact Solve for Tomorrow had on his students: “I teach in a rural school, so my students didn’t see how they could influence the rest of the world. They really invested in this project, staying after school, coming early and working during the day to complete it. Seeing that I cared about their ideas and other people really cared about their ideas made it clear to me that they could and really could make those differences.
Each Academy teacher involved in the program is a past SFT winner and has earned their share of more than $2 million in classroom technology and materials for their respective schools, in addition to gaining hands-on experience of the problem-based learning and mindSpark learning professional development tools. Program participants also received Continuing Education Credits (CECs), a measure used to keep licensing and certifications in the field current.
“It’s always an amazing experience to see how these teachers inspire the next generation of changemakers,” said Michele Mosa, director of corporate citizenship at Samsung Electronics America. “The Teachers’ Academy is designed to offer its participants the opportunity to recharge their batteries, while developing essential skills and learning to better relate to their students. With 35 teachers participating in this year’s program, the Academy is creating a strong support system of like-minded individuals with unique experiences that will continue for years to come.
The week started Monday morning with a trip to Farm Project, New York’s state-of-the-art sustainability center and event space. Here, teachers packed seeds for urban and school gardens, while learning GrowNYC’s mission to be a sustainable resource for New Yorkers and to improve their community. This year, with a focus on improving food access and security, teachers were tasked with working in small groups to create a sustainable STEM-based solution to be presented to a panel of employees. from Samsung and Academy graduate teachers the next day.
“To be empowered by a company, such as Samsung, that uses its resources to improve our lives is just great,” Explain Jessica Abrams, STEM teacher at Liberty Avenue Middle School in New York and SFT National Finalist. “We came here, we were welcomed, appreciated and actually put into a task that mimics what students do in school. It gave us first-hand experience of the whole project so that we can be better open facilitators when we return to our respective schools.
“I really liked being able to do the project, but I especially liked being able to do it with other like-minded teachers who want to be creative,” added Allie Langwald, physical education (PE) and health teacher and athletic director at Hope Middle and High School of Detroit Academy and SFT national winner. “People aren’t always as excited about STEM as you are, but everyone here is excited to do what we do and be here. It’s nice to be in a room with like-minded people, who want to think outside the box with you, and who are just enthusiastic about education.
After the day spent visiting outdoor farmers markets, learning about everyday sustainable actions and developing their innovative solutions to fight food insecurity, the teachers spent the next day at Samsung’s North American headquarters in Ridgefield. Park, New Jersey. Academy teachers had an action-packed day filled with engaging discussions, panel presentations, a Samsung employee roundtable, and even a tour of the company’s tech-filled Executive Briefing Center. Samsung.
“As a woman in tech, it’s actually one of my personal missions to mentor female students entering STEM,” Davudzadeh Explained. “Over the past 5 years, I have created clubs where I try to inspire women. They see me as a teacher of a technology class and pushing all these innovative initiatives, and I’ve noticed that our female group has grown by about 10%. I have a student that I mentored and now she is attending Stanford as a VR developer. She’s involved in so many different projects and doing amazing things. She told me that at first it was intimidating for her to get into IT, but after being exposed to the different career possibilities, she started to see it as a career path, which I found it very inspiring. I love doing this for young women.
In addition to learning from peers, Samsung has partnered with mindSpark Learning, a national non-profit organization, to develop a curriculum that puts inquiry-based problem solving at the forefront of learning, as well as only to improve professional communication and leadership skills. mindSpark Learning seeks to empower educators through a cutting-edge personalized learning experience across three key community pillars: education, industry, and government. As part of the Teacher Academy program, teachers participated in a variety of mini-sessions and activities centered on problem-based learning and education for sustainable development.
Harry Preston, science teacher at James McHenry Elementary/Middle School in Maryland and SFT national winner, had a unique experience this year, graduating from the Academy in 2021 and returning as a mentor this year.
“It is always interesting to see the connection with other educators who share the same belief and understand that innovation education is of vital importance to students,” said Preston. “It’s hard to sit in a standard day-to-day classroom and just be there. It didn’t work, it won’t work and I don’t know why we keep coming back to it. We need to look for ways to give children opportunities to problem solve and apply knowledge, so they can retain it better. Until it becomes relevant, it will always be a day instead of today. By doing things, they realize that today is the day.
With this year’s Teacher Academy in the books, some of the attendees shared tips with other teachers looking to get involved with Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow and Teacher Academy.
“I had a very different experience because I was a physical education teacher who applied. I didn’t even know if I was allowed to apply, I even double-checked,” said Langwald. “My advice is for any teacher; art teacher, group teacher, it doesn’t matter if you teach STEM. You can apply. You can do it, and you can win too. This is an incredible opportunity and everyone should take advantage of it.
Davudzadeh Explain the greater impact of the competition on the students, “it makes the learning more meaningful and more useful. It’s a personal connection, so yes, they’re building their community, but they’re also developing critical thinking skills to solve problems. The more they develop this skill, when they go out to start their real life, they have more confidence to accomplish whatever they want.
As September approaches, Samsung looks forward to continuing to support STEM education and the teachers who are inspiring the minds of young changemakers across the country.
To learn more about how to get involved with Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, visit https://www.samsung.com/us/solvefortomorrow/.