TAMPA, Fla. — This week’s A+ Teacher, Maria Bailey, is working overtime — to get thousands of young students excited about STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — education.
Everywhere she goes, she plants a seed for STEM and hands-on learning. In the classroom for nearly 30 years, she’s teaching kids that the sky’s the limit.
It’s an exciting time for Bailey, who has a background in chemistry and human biology. She was just promoted from the classroom to Academic Coach for 6-8 Science for the Hillsborough School District.
She will be working all year long to make sure all students and middle school teachers have STEM education in everything they do.
“It’s just so wonderful to see their eyes light up, to see how much fun that they are having, because for me, I don’t want them just to experience this now, but I want it to be something that they carry on with them,” said Bailey. “I want to see them in STEM fields. I want to see them being our rocket scientists and our engineers.”
The kids had a great time learning about rockets to kick things off at “rocket camp” at Sergeant Paul R. Smith Middle School in Tampa. They learned about drones to close out the camp.
The camp was made possible through a partnership and grant from the Department of Defense.
“I’ve been teaching now for 28 years, and it’s my heart’s desire to take what I know and the enthusiasm and the love that I have for science and impart it to my students,” said Bailey. “I feel like when I walk into a classroom, I walk in looking at all of the potential that is in the room, and the greatness that is inside every student.”
“She is truly an authentic lover of science, and her passion and her positivity just exude right from her, and her students understand that she’s the real deal and they want to learn from her,” said Nicole Jacquay, Supervisor of 6-8 Science at Hillsborough County Public Schools. “And she models just amazing thinking and curiosity about the natural world.”
Bailey teaches critical thinking and problem solving, but it’s her mission to make it fun and to inspire students. That means learning to love science, and always learning with hands-on experience.
The connection she makes with kids is even more powerful.
“To love the kids, and that we show them genuine concern, sometimes that’s really the only connection point we need. When kids know that they are cared about, they work towards whatever the goal is that has been set in that classroom and it’s just being consistent — consistently showing that you are there for them — and that’s what I’ve seen over the years and my kids will do almost anything because they know I care.”