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March Outstanding STEAM Educator Spotlight: Rachel Carter

Meet Rachel Carter: a first-year STEM teacher at Oconee County Elementary in Watkinsville, GA who used her childhood inspiration to prompt her career in education. Incorporating her love of Georgia football (go Bulldogs!), Mrs. Carter not only creates unique and engaging activities for her students and their Ozobots, but also shares her STEM lessons with the world via her Instagram account @oces_stem. Read on to see why we are thrilled to feature Mrs. Carter as our Outstanding STEAM Educator for the month of March.

What are some key strategies you’ll be using in the 2023/2024 school year for STEM teaching?

I always had a lot of interest in technology and STEM in general, but this is my first year teaching STEM. I have fallen in love with it! I love seeing the students come in with excitement. I have learned to give students access to materials and set guidelines for them. They can handle it if I set expectations from the beginning about how to keep the classroom organized. The students feel empowered when they come to STEM. Now that we are moving past the crazy times of 2020, it’s more clear to me than ever how valuable our time is when we are all together in the classroom. I think we learned a lot but I think the kids are more grateful for normalcy now. 

What are some Ozobot project(s) from this school year that were particularly impactful for your students?

I’ve used Ozobot Bits with my third graders a lot this year. They learned how to use them and then we practiced during football season. I teach STEM to 3rd, 4th and 5th grade! My school is located right outside of Athens, GA so we are big Bulldog fans! The kids had to do a couple of different maze activities. My favorite was when we covered the bots with Georgia players and used the bowling pins as opposing team players! This was an extremely engaging unit for my students. They used a lot of problem-solving skills and had to work through frustrations. I saw a lot of teamwork as students figured out how to make their code work best. Friends were willing to jump in and help others fix mistakes. They were working so well at planning ahead and mapping everything out. 

A few weeks later, we brought the Ozobots back out for a trick-or-treat mapping activity. For this, I tied the activity in with 3rd grade social studies standards for map skills. The kids had a blast using their creativity a little bit more for this. 

Why did you want to become a teacher? Is there someone who inspired you when you were younger? 

I always had a feeling that I would become a teacher. I don’t like to sit still for too long. My mom was a 3rd grade teacher when I was growing up. She had a clear passion for teaching. It poured over into me as I grew up and headed toward my future. I didn’t realize it then, but her enthusiasm for teaching was showing me what it looks like to love what you do. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. I love coming to work each day, now. 

What made you interested in teaching STEAM? What is your favorite part about being a STEAM educator? Please feel free to include anything else you’d like to share with us about yourself or your school. 

I never thought I’d become a STEM teacher, honestly. When I was offered the job, my principal told me she thought this was something that I could be really good at. I had a hard time at first, but now I see that she was right. I have always enjoyed creating things. Now I can channel that into my lessons with a lot more structure and parameters. I’ve realized that kids love structure, but they also love to have some freedom within the borders. I try to implement that into my days now! Flexibility is key. I want them to know that failure is going to happen. When it does happen, we back up and re-evaluate. We improve and move on! 

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