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Peabody receives designation as STEM School

By Crystal Burns


Peabody High School has joined an elite group of 48 schools across the state, receiving designation May 4 as a Tennessee STEM School.

The honor recognizes schools for their commitment to promoting and integrating STEM and/or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) learning for all students that ultimately prepares them for post-secondary college and career success in the 21st century.

“As part of his Future Workforce Initiative, Governor Lee set out to triple the number of STEM-designated schools in Tennessee by 2022, and we are thrilled to see twice as many schools receive the Tennessee STEM Designation this year from last year,” said Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn in a press release. “STEM education not only engages students with real-world problem solving in the classroom but provides them with the opportunity to develop creative and critical thinking skills that will prepare them for post-secondary success. We know STEM-related jobs are in high demand, and as a state, it is so important that we give all students the tools they need to be successful in the 21st century economy.”

The designation extends to 2025, and Peabody received a $10,000 grant to maintain and expand its current program, said Ben Di’Chiara, Peabody STEM teacher.

Peabody is one of 22 schools to receive the distinction this year and the first high school to be recognized as a STEM school in northwest Tennessee.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Trenton Special School District Director of Schools Tim Haney.

Each school awarded the Tennessee STEM School Designation was evaluated through a rigorous application process that included a self-evaluation, interviews, and hosting site visits with the Tennessee STEM Designation review team. The designation rubric includes five focus areas – infrastructure, curriculum and instruction, professional development, achievement, and community and postsecondary partnerships.

As part of the process, schools were also required to submit a plan of action for implementing and sustaining STEM and/or STEAM education for the next five years.

Haney was long on his praise of Di’Chiara’s efforts to build the STEM program at Peabody.

“He has closed the gap and passed so many people in such a blindingly quick amount of time,” Haney said.

Di’Chiara is also involved in expanding the STEM program to the other two TSSD schools. Bryce Agee, art teacher at Trenton Rosenwald Middle School, will lead the program there, and Ronny Criswell, fourth grade teacher, will take the helm at Trenton Elementary School.

“Looking to the future, by 2025, I think we can have our district STEM designated,” Di’Chiara said. “We’ll start next year at the middle school, and then we’ll move on down to the elementary school shortly after that.”

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