During the school day of April 9 and April 11, two accreditors with the company Advanced Ed, walked around school, monitoring STA’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) department. At the end of April 11, president Nan Bone announced over the speaker that STA received STEM accreditation. To qualify, STA had to meet a list of 11 criteria having to do with educators, learning and experiences.
“The STEAM accreditation is recognition that St. Teresa’s is on the right path and doing as much as they can for girls in STEAM,” senior Macy Bauers said. “It shows the effort St. Teresa’s is making isn’t fruitless.”
There are two types of accreditation, one for STEM departments and one for the entire school.The accreditation for the STEM department means that the criteria only applies to that department while some schools meet the criteria throughout the whole school. STA received accreditation for the whole school as it met all of the criteria.
“When you look at the indicators for excellence that are associated with the certification process, those are really things you can see across the board in all of our departments,” director of curriculum and instruction Jo Weller said.
STA is the second school in Kansas and Missouri to receive this accreditation and the second in the U.S. as an all-girls school to receive this accreditation.
“I do think it’s significant because if you are going to talk specifically about STEM programs, females are heavily underrepresented in those disciplines,” Weller said. “We have programs at St. Teresa’s that supports our students being educated in those fields and continue in those fields in college and in industry.”
As part as the STEAM initiative, STA offers STEM and STEAM, which includes art, certificates. The program started with five students and has now grown to 26. Bauers received a STEM certificate and seniors Anne Claire Tangen and Olivia Rose received a STEAM certificate.
To receive a STEM award, a student applies late sophomore year or early junior year. If they meet the class requirements, the student has to take extra math and science classes, or arts for STEAM.
Students in the program also received an e-mentor, who is a professional in the field that the student is interested in and a faculty member who helps make sure they remain on track with classes and volunteer hours in a STEM field.
STEAM and STEM students were also given the chance to talk to STEAM professionals and attend STEAM/STEM events. Rose’s favorite was BioNexus KC, an annual event with a dinner and a silent auction. The students helped auction off work submitted by regional scientists. The students then ate and listened to the speakers who came to the event.
“We met really cool professors, engineers and scientists,” Rose said. “The connections are one of the biggest benefits.”
Weller also believes that one of the most important parts of the program is the connection it gives girls to the broader community. Students have had the opportunity for internships, job shadowing, mentoring and projects. She believes this exposes students to educators outside of the typical classroom but also allows the community to get to know STA.
“For me, it’s not really about the school certification or the individual certification, I love the process that it creates and the opportunities that come from that,” Weller said. “…Our students are the best version of us and I really think that any time people can have an opportunity to meet our students, it’s a great way to know more about who we are and what we do.”
Weller believes the program gives students skills they can utilize in the STEM field.
“They really are skills of service,” Weller said. “I think it’s really important to who we are as a school, whatever it is you decide to do and when you find your passion — you have that opportunity of service for it.”
The requirements for classes also allowed Tangen to try new things. Going into sophomore year she was split between classes and last minute chose to take a computer science course.
“I actually ended up really, really liking it,” Tangen said. “I wouldn’t go into it but especially going into a STEM field, coding is really important, even just the basics. All the requirements kind of forced me to step out of my comfort zone which is really cool.”
Bauers said that the certificate also helped her get organized as she had to make a portfolio and start thinking about her classes.
“I think that it’s nice because if you’re really wanting to push yourself into this certain field, whether it’s digital art or graphic design or focusing more in science and math, it makes you start to think about what classes you want to take early on,” Bauers said.
Bauers plans to major in physics and thinks STA’s all-girls environment helped her.
“Any field, being around all-girls in this formative time of your life and figuring out what kind of person you want to be is really good,” Bauers said. “I think in general, whether you want to be a journalist or a physicist, it teaches you to have a voice and push yourself. I think in any field St. Teresa’s does a good job with that.”