NEA Foundation

PBJHS teacher receives $5K boost for new robotics class
Posted on 02/05/2019
Noah Shirrell, Nathan Mays, Tony Curnutt and Jarryn Anderson

A Poplar Bluff teacher has been awarded a $5,000 Learning & Leadership grant through the NEA Foundation to receive professional development to help enhance a new robotics program at Junior High.

Hilary Taylor was afforded the opportunity to travel to Michigan, Oklahoma and Washington in the fall to participate in conferences through Google and the International Society for Technology in Education for the purpose of bringing innovative ideas back to the classroom. 

The educator is researching another ISTE sponsored event and possibly one through the National Science Teachers Association in the spring and summer to utilize the remainder of the funding, which covers associated travel costs and registration fees.

“We don’t want to teach a skill that’s important but may not be necessary in 20 years, we teach problem solving and critical thinking,” Taylor explained. “If you can think critically and problem solve, you’re in a better position for jobs that don’t even exist yet.” 

Taylor, who in addition to robotics teaches SINGS and drama, noted that her graduate studies through Arkansas State University did not necessarily cover STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. An instructor of her tenure has to seek such resources out, she said. 

She is thankful to have a supportive administrative team at Junior High, she added. One of Principal Candace Warren’s first orders of business when she took the helm in 2017/18 was to open up students’ schedules so they can take a second elective. 

Besides providing more opportunities to explore subjects, Warren explained that it allowed SINGS students, or those in the gifted program, to be able to also enroll in an elective of their choosing. First year Assistant Principal Josh Teeter agrees about the importance of the increased course offerings. 

“Electives are enrichment opportunities to hopefully allow students to apply what they’re learning in the core subjects, and help you find your path in life,” Teeter said. 

Having transferred to Junior High as an English teacher last school year, Taylor took over the SINGS program this year for Tom Allen, who retired. She volunteered to lead some of the new or reinstated electives as well. For a decade prior, she taught third grade at Oak Grade, after getting her start teaching at a parochial school in 2005. 

A past recipient of smaller grants through the Missouri Retired Teachers Foundation among other organizations, Taylor said she is always seeking out sources to supplement her classroom budget. She applied for the NEA Foundation grant at the end of last school year and received her award letter in September.

“I am impressed with your innovative ideas and am looking forward to learning more about your accomplishments,” stated Jesse Graytock, NEA Foundation program manager. Taylor received $4,500 in October and will be awarded another $500 once she submits her report upon completion of the approved training. 

The annual grant program through the fundraising arm of the National Education Association had a preference placed on proposals that incorporate STEM or global learning this time around, according to the nonprofit’s website.


Cutline: (Clockwise) Noah Shirrell, Nathan Mays, Tony Curnutt and Jarryn Anderson test out an Ozobot that the students coded to travel up a cardboard rollercoaster on Thursday, Jan. 31.

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