‘STEM fields can make a difference in the world’

‘STEM fields can make a difference in the world’

STEM learning coordinator

Angela Marzilli, 37

South Portland School Department

www.adventuresinstem.com

Angela Marzilli has been an educator for more than a decade. She started her career on the elementary level teaching all subjects in Poland, Maine. She moved on take over as a math teacher for gifted students in South Portland, which she did for six years. Marzilli, a Maine native who received her training in education at the University of Southern Maine and her teaching credentials through a combined program with the University of New England, is now in her fourth year as the STEM and project-based learning coordinator for the South Portland school district.

“As a STEM and PBL coordinator, I work with teachers on curriculum, assessment, and instruction of STEM curriculum, often through utilizing project-based learning techniques,” said Marzilli. “I love that in my job I can learn new things all the time, from the teachers I work with, as well as reading and research I do on my own.”

On her website, www.adventuresinstem.com, Marzilli elaborates:

“I truly think I have one of the best jobs in the world. I’m working in a school district with teachers, administrators, and students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, so basically I get paid to immerse myself in science, technology, engineering, and math, all day. I understand many of you may be itching at the hives that have sprung up all over your body at this point. But I have a stack of books on the periodic table of elements next to my bed, so it’s the perfect job for me.”

One of Marzilli’s goals is to help teachers understand and enjoy what they teach to improve learning for the students.

When she’s not working, Marzilli loves to read any mystery she can find.

“Particularly Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, and of course Sherlock Holmes,” said Marzilli. “I also like biking and taking my new baby daughter on walks.”

Maine Women had a chance to talk with Marzilli about her work, what inspired her to become a teacher and her view of the future of women in STEM related fields.

Q: What inspired you to become a math/STEM teacher? How did you get to where you are?

A: I had amazing math and science teachers in high school who taught me to love thinking mathematically and scientifically. They challenged us to work hard, in class or in our math team. I chose to become a teacher so I could continue learning forever and have that learning be a part of my career. I started as the teacher for gifted math students in South Portland, working with students in grades 3 through 8. When I became a classroom teacher in third, fourth, and fifth grade, I was excited to see that my enthusiasm for mathematics caused enthusiasm for the subject in all my students, not just the students who self-identified as “good at math.” I love teaching. For me it is also about learning. Now I work with teachers to improve science, math, and engineering instruction in the district and integrate all subjects in the classroom. I love how my work with teachers impacts larger numbers of students than I could as a teacher in one classroom.

Q: Do you think an emphasis on STEM in education has made an impact on women with regard to math?

A: I think STEM has brought greater focus to supporting women in mathematics. I also think the focus on STEM has shown women how working in STEM fields can make a significant difference in the world, which is an important consideration for many women when they are choosing a career path for themselves. There is research which indicates that women often choose a career looking to make the world a better place, which is a broad definition of STEM – it’s an important piece of that, making life better through STEM. It’s not just about rockets or building something bigger, faster, better. I read about a young woman who utilized bicycles to grind corn, which gave a small village in Africa an opportunity to make more food than before. Her drive was to help people and she used STEM skills. I want women to know about the options that are out there. I don’t want anyone to not become an engineer because they don’t know what that means and what it can lead to. I want women to choose to do what they want to do and not feel limited.

Q: Are you optimistic about the future for women in STEM fields?

A: Yes. I think the focus on STEM and women can only encourage women to join these fields, create space and opportunity for them, and cultivate appreciation for the perspectives women bring to STEM careers.

STEM and Project Based Learning Coordinator Angela Marzilli works for the South Portland School Department. Courtesy photo

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