Dedicated to Firsts...

Over a decade ago, applying to colleges seemed like a compulsory act to my 17 year old self, a necessary pressure with hopes to seal a optimistic fate. My friends made their college application choices based on how much financial aid they'd receive coupled with hopes that their interests or passions be met with a complementary major or degree program. I followed suit because I started imagining a world of my own design, but mostly because I feared missing out on a shared next chapter in life. I applied to college because the adults in my life believed this too.  

Many of these adults, namely my parents and family members, assisted this process with intangible yet kind encouragement and silent prayers. This is the only help they could afford as most of them had not graduated from a university. I feel humbled yet blessed to do what they weren't able to and go where they were denied. In many ways, I could not have made it as far as I have without those invaluable and treasured prayers.


When I set my heart and gaze on Spelman College, my fate was sealed. Back then Spelman was a school I'd barely heard of until older classmates came back to our hometown, fresh off campus and beaming with pride that they had successfully penned their next chapter. I remember thinking if they can do it, I can do it, and learning about their scholarships and internships that I too could apply for was icing on the cake.

With that, writing my next chapter began and the fear of missing out subsided. However, hindsight is 20/20. Now I realize my tenure at Spelman was to learn who and what I was. My optimistic fate was more than a chemistry major or an engineering degree.  It was learning and discovering history about myself, my ancestors and luminaries like those classmates that introduced me to Spelman. 



This past month I celebrated my 10 year reunion and nearly 15 year pursuit of that world of my own design I first imagined in high school. Reunion reminded me of how grateful and blessed I am. It reminded me if how far I had come from free and reduced price lunches to becoming the first person in my family to obtain one, two and eventually three STEM related degrees. It also made me realize and remember the other "firsts" I accomplished: 

These firsts are excellent examples of how familial encouragement and prayer works and how first can propel you forward and upward. Reflecting over my reunion weekend and over the last decade can be best summed up with the Sankofa proverb: go back and reclaim the past to move forward. These past few weeks spanning between my college reunion and my birthday have been filled with moments to catch up on the past, plan for the future and fulfill my choice to change the world.

Sankofa tumblr_mxix8ijgbs1su85gro1_500.gif
This post is dedicated to my Spelman sisters, all their amazing firsts and all the supportive prayers along the way. 

Dedicated to #TIEFighters...

Graphic Credit: Corey Holmer

Graphic Credit: Corey Holmer

March marked the official end of my TED-Ed Innovative Educator experience. With TEd-Ed, not only have I received some of the best professional development in my entire career, I gained new family members from across the globe in my cohort. Being part of #TIEfighters has validated every part of me that has doubted my career change from engineer to educator and has challenged me to want to do more and grow more beyond TED-Ed. Best of all, my TED-Ed lessons allow me to teach around the globe without a classroom or a plane ticket. As I reflect on my Innovation Project, I feel like it is just beginning. I look forward to presenting at TED-Ed weekend and spreading new ideas this summer. 


Project Desciption in 100 Words:

As a rookie teacher, combining affordability with execution of new lessons was a challenge.  Finding lessons that “seemed” straightforward was no problem, but many needed to be tested out first.  As teachers know best, 1st hour with a new activity is always rough, but by 4th hour, you’re a pro!

For my TED-Ed innovation project, I created a resource for easy-to-plan and engaging STEM lessons that are...

  • affordable (less than 30 cents per student!)
  • accessible (kid- and teacher-tested)
  • aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (Science and Engineering Practices) and
  • accompanied by TED-Ed videos (to help with implementation).


Project Evolution:

At its core, my project stayed the same.  It started out small and was easily summed up by its title crafted by the brilliant Laura McClure: “10 classroom STEM gems for less than 30 cents per student.” One initial goal for implementation was collecting 100 STEM lessons in 100 days from educators through social media and conferences. If crowd accelerated properly, the project would grow on its own without me as the only contributor. I used my project funding to create kits to send to educators in return for submitting lessons.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t able to generate as many lessons as I originally hoped, but I’m glad I have materials to continue promoting my project.

However, what I was able to accomplish was presenting “TED-Ed Ideas Worth Sharing  in Your Classroom” around the country while sharing the resource concurrently. Here are some quick facts about my project:

  • The lessons grew from 10 STEM gems to 20+ including Techbridge Girls, Inc. lessons and #CSEDWeek activities.
  • I reached over 300+ educators by travelling to 8 conferences in 6 states and Puerto Rico!
  • and traffic indicates I’ve reached over 1,200 unique visitors in the last year!


Tips for Educators Who Want to Replicate the Project:

If you want to replicate the project, let’s replicate it together! Let’s create a plan together, and crush it! The best way DollarStoreSTEM can grow is replication, and in turn, TED-Ed replicates too. DollarStoreSTEM was designed to be a community that crowdsourced its lessons like TED-Ed. My dream for DollarStoreSTEM is to be go-to place for anyone who wants to “get their science on” affordably, while sharing lessons, activities and other great ideas to grow the resource and to grow the community.  This is all based on the idea that STEM can be fun and affordable and can be found in things around your home. That being said, DON’T go it alone!


  • DO take copious photos and videos. DON’T be like me, scrambling to show some from 3+ months ago.
  • DO use or retro-fit what you already have (lessons, supplies, etc.) and what is already published on  Many of my lessons are “borrowed,” and re-packaged it to make planning and execution easier. This saves time AND money.
  • DON’T let suggested grade levels be a barrier.  DO what teachers do best, and translate it to meet the needs and grade levels of your students.
  • DO email for help!
Started from the bottom (August)...  with the Dollar Store STEM version of R&D

Started from the bottom (August)...  with the Dollar Store STEM version of R&D

Make.It.Work. conference in Baltimore

Make.It.Work. conference in Baltimore

Dollar Store STEM in action near Chicago

Dollar Store STEM in action near Chicago

GIF cred: Lisa Labracio, TED-Ed

GIF cred: Lisa Labracio, TED-Ed

This post is dedicated to my new forever family, TED-Ed, the best educators around the globe.

Dedicated to "Beacons of Heavenly Light"...

My open letter to past presidents of Spelman College


Dear Dr. Cole, Dr. Manley and Dr. Tatum,

This Women’s History month, I am taking time to honor and give thanks to women who have inspired my journey thus far.  Please accept this letter as a small token of my appreciation to the amazing example you’ve set for Spelman women.  While studying chemistry and engineering at Spelman College, I developed an interest in education and have been tutoring, teaching and mentoring young women ever since.  I even changed my career from engineer to educator five years ago.  My dream is to earn a Ph.D. (I would be the first in my immediate and extended family) and become an educator, humanitarian, activist, author and college president like you.

As I write my own HERstory, I sometimes wonder if the career choices and steps I’ve taken for professional development are too small for my big dreams.  But I know that is just fear and doubt clouding my “beacons of heavenly light” that seek to illuminate my path to success.  If you have any words of wisdom for an aspiring leader who wants to remove those clouds of doubt and illuminate paths for others, I would be honored to have your advice.

Again, thank you for your service to Spelman College and for being an inspiration to me.

Happy Women's History Month,



Dedicated to Trailblazing Talkers...

In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth, I started the hashtag: #todayinblackSTEM. This project was as much about highlighting others' accomplishments as it was about self-discovery.  On one hand, this opened my eyes to the countless stories of relentless persistence of blacks in STEM fields.  On the other hand, it made me deeply concerned about the countless missed opportunities of untapped talent

So I looked into a resource that I knew I could count on to reaffirm my hopes for more diversity in STEM: TED.  "TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world." Like me, TED believes in "the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world." #todayinblackSTEM is definitely worth spreading, not only in February, but all year long.

Here are 30+ TED Talks by blacks in STEM (and STEAM!) who have set out to change their part of the world...


Click here to view my TED-Ed lesson with Richard's talk.






If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
— Sir Issac Newton
This post is dedicated to trailblazers and truth talkers, those as hidden figures and those in the spotlight.

Dedicated to Computers...

How did I not know? I spent 4 summers at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in internships. My mother, my brother and I all worked in various capacities for the US Space and Rocket Center. Training as a camp counselor there, I learned how to teach about all the major missions from the Space Race  to Redstone to Atlas to Apollo and the Shuttle. How did we not know? How did I not know?! OH THE IRONY!

I hope anyone who reads this enjoyed the discovery of Hidden Figures as much as I did and found inspiration as well as strength to continue the fight for more of "us" in STEM.


This post is dedicated to Computers, those brilliant, undaunted, awe-inspiring SHE-ros--hidden and in plain sight.

Dedicated to the Electorate...

One of the most important lessons I learned as a teacher was that "rules without relationship lead to rebellion." I've found that this applies to both students and adults. Too often in professional settings and in our personal lives, we forget that we are all flawed humans with a hierarchy of needs, regardless if we're in a position of leadership, authority or not. Rules, expectations, policies, unwritten and official, dictate the nature interpersonal relationships.

Elections are no different. My voting choices this term were based on my chosen candidates' relationship within my community and their vision for my community once elected. Candidates, too, are human with that same hierarchy of needs. 

The goal of any relationship, professional or personal, should always be to make someone else's life better. If not, it's a waste of time. That's not to say that every relationship will be beneficial. Relationships fail. Individuals fail. Candidates fail. Elected officials fail. Important lessons with my students have failed. It is how the failure is shifted into success that matters.

The more we invest in a sense of relationship, in a sense of community, the closer we get to healing from any failures and making our communities and ourselves safe and whole.

Dedicated to Makers...

A relatively new buzz word swarming around K-12 STEM education lately is "makerspace." The White House has generated much of this buzz through its efforts with the Maker Movement. The word may be new to most STEM educators, but the concept is most definitely not new. Career and technical education (CTE) teachers have taught "maker" skills since CTE's roots in the since past "vocational education" days. Chances are, a CTE teacher's classroom is often by default a makerspace.

“I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it’s science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.”
— President Barack Obama

The K-12 science education realm recognized this long ago and incorporated "making" in the form of engineering practices within the New Generation Science Standards. Enrollment in academic courses is on the rise and high school graduation rates continue to rise too, but vocational and CTE enrollments decline. Where carpentry and home economics dominated the K-12 space, STEM areas like engineering, robotics and computer science have taken their place, but not without challenges in reaching diverse learners. Makerspaces rooted in STEM can address these challenges and provide students with a hook earlier on, so they persist through STEM degrees.

Creating makerspaces and incorporating engineering practices into existing curriculum can seem difficult and expensive. NGSS connects science and engineering through practices--acts of doing, creating, testing. This requires, at minimum, students putting ideas on paper, which is not expensive. However, to truly embody engineering practices, creating a physical prototype that students can see and touch is getting students set the core of being and engineer. Even more paramount is having students reflect on their own work and improving it. An opportunity to practice a continuous loop of improvement is even better. There are great (and affordable!) activities to facilitate this on

This continuous loop, better known as the design process, is what connects STEM and CTE to making. The loop instantly creates environments for students to practice higher order thinking. Makerspaces are simply educational environments that support learning through creating, through making. Making may be the solution to the challenges in reaching diverse learners as well as "rising above the gathering storm" of declining employability.  The more students "make," the more students value the tenets of STEM and CTE, creating the skilled workforce our nation needs.

“What are we building today that will last 1,000 years?”
— Chris Anderson, TED Curator
This post is dedicated to makers, big and small, making impacts that will last 1,000 years.

Dedicated to the One in a Million...

According to the UNESCO, 2.7 million teachers are needed worldwide to provide every child a primary education. By year 2020, 10.9 billion teachers will be needed to serve every student globally. That means with nearly 8 billion humans occupying our planet, we run the risk of each teacher on Earth being 1 in a million! We, in this profession, make all other professions possible. 

If the above quote is true, here's how you can help... 


1) Advocate that teachers who are in classrooms everyday are among the primary decision makers for education policy, especially if you're a teacher yourself. Start here...


2) If you're not a teacher, avail yourself to a classroom near you. It doesn't matter where you live or what type of school it is, educators are always welcoming of professionals that can share their story (or many stories) with their students. This will help you feel more confident about the advice above and potentially give you a new perspective on the work teachers do. Take a note from Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.


3) Before you judge a teacher or the state of education portrayed by the media, do your research. Ask yourself, as a taxpayer, "Are the schools in my neighborhood and near my place of business where I would send my children or lived ones?" If not, try #1 above again. Also, if you can, make sure stories like these are shared, far and wide.


4) Lastly, become an educator because children around the world need you. 10.9 billion teachers are needed over the next 3 years. That's more than triple what we have now. There are amazing teacher programs nearly everywhere so you don't have to go it alone...

This post is dedicated to the beyond amazing, super heroic, 1 in a million educators that helped created this lesson... 

Dedicated to Disruptors...

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
— Dale Carnegie

Fight or flight...

I feared disruption while teaching--terribly feared my classroom would unravel out of control. Those moments are inevitable as all educators know like when a verbal disagreement escalates or when the outside world permeates inside the classroom in the form of dozens of questions about #blacklivesmatter that you can't possibly ignore.


Teaching myself while informing others...

When a student disrupts a lesson, our knee jerk reaction defaults to discipline. But consider both roles, teacher and student, before we prescribe or recommend any particular classroom management strategy. Of course, the discipline for the student pops into mind first, but what discipline could be applied to our behavior as the adult?

For example, one of my brightest students in my advanced intro to engineering class changed his behavior dramatically during our final exam at the end of the year. This final was a group project that required no new skills and was intended to be a culmination of all the 3D modeling skills that students learned throughout the year.  He distracted himself, he disturbed others and he constantly complained about my teaching. I defaulted to "discipline." I gave verbal warnings, managed my proximity and moved he and his group away from others. I pushed through, steering my 9th graders through a challenging group final project in the middle of June.

Of course, the year finally came to a close, not leaving enough time for reflection, but all final exams were completed. The following fall, I got the opportunity to speak to this student about the final exam. He said simply, "It was really hard. And you wouldn't help us." Of course after hearing this, I had no choice but to reflect. My student was afraid of failure. I was not addressing the needs in front of me.  I was not asking the right questions.  I was not responding in away that relieved their test anxiety. What I learned from this was obvious--not all disruption requires discipline and not all disruption is created equal.  Beyond the obvious, I learned that reflection on challenging situations is paramount.

Thankfully, this student is and would be a high achiever regardless of the situation.  He's an amazing kid. But not all of our students get the opportunity to achieve at his level or have the opportunity to reflect after a final exam.  Another example occurred after the 2015 Baltimore protests. One of my students got our class riled up as he lamented about the situation while walking into class.  The resulting conversation among he and his classmates became so heated, I chose to postpone our classwork and shift to facilitating the conversation about the protests. The students appreciated this, and asked if we could have more conversations about current events, which led to me allowing student-selected articles for our "DEAR (Drop Everything and Read)" time.


Hindsight is 20/20

As I look back on my time in the classroom, those moments were actually teaching moments for myself, informing me about my practice as an educator. I am truly grateful for those moments as they were full of potential, full of growth for myself and my students.  

This post is dedicated to my students that continue to teach me more than they would ever know despite having since left the classroom!

Dedicated to Curators...

On your long journey here, I hope to make you smile, laugh and think...



1) I think, therefore I am, therefore I am love

2) We are Father and Mother trees (I saw this one in person!)

3) Art is peace (I saw this one in person too!)

4) Teamwork makes the dream work (I used this in my classroom!)

5) There is an inventor is us all (I used this in my classroom too!)

6) Paradigm shifting: Beauty, inevitability and impossibility

7) You are my stress reliever

8) The danger of a single story

9) My heartbeat is a code for something inappropriate

10) Short+sweet = unbounded questioning

11) To spam or not to spam (I saw an updated version of this live!)

12) Where we fell in love

13) I met this one guy once

This post is dedicated the muses and angels (aka Curators) that speak life and love into us and demand beauty and giving art away for free.

Dedicated to Change Agents...

This weekend, I had the privilege of returning "home" to Detroit for the 2016 Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship Convening. I was especially elated for the invitation to serve on a closing panel and share a glimpse of my dramatic career change from reformed engineer to rebellious educator. The affirmations and knowledge I gained at this conference perhaps exceeded the value that I offered on the panel. However, I'm especially grateful and transformed to hear from change agents like Alycia Meriweather, Aria Moody, Zachary Sweet, David Flores, Dr. Travis Bristol and Dr. Audra Watson.

There are two types of people in this world—
the “yes, but-ers” and the “why not-ers.”
— Alycia Meriweather

Alycia has been within Detroit Public Schools nearly all her life. She's seen, taught and led through stressful strikes, multiple emergency managers, countless politicians and a constant changing of hands and reforms. Her message has remained consistent--firm, passionate, sincere and emboldened. From middle school science teacher to Interim Superintendent, those under Alycia's watch, including the Detroit Woodrow Wilson Fellows, are always in good hands.

Like myself, Aria and Zach are Michigan Fellows who committed to teaching 3+ years in a local high-need school in a high-need STEM subject. I'm proud to say that both live and serve in Detroit. Aria's attention to detail and fine-tuned sense of efficacy in her fellow educators made her presentation on teacher burnout a stand-out session, one I took copious notes for and won't soon forget. Zach, a fellow panelist, wants to be a principal by age 30, and I believe he will be. His laser focus and reflective practice spoke volumes as he addressed the panel with me. Once slammed with an injunction for his alleged participation in recent teacher "sick outs," Zach still speaks highly of Detroit Public Schools' leadership and the support he receives while a novice teacher in the district.

Circumstances mean nothing... What matters is what you do with them.
— Aria Moody

I met David at his session entitled, "Combating Trauma and Conformity Through the Pedagogy of Healing and Self-Discovery." David clearly excels at turning tragedy into triumphant teaching. A true scholar, David backed up every slide of his presentation with recent and relevant research: "With Maslow's concept of self-actualization as a focal point, consistent meditation and self-reflection help students combat trauma and anxiety while better understanding themselves, planning and taking action to become the best version of themselves daily." I can totally see myself as a student in his classroom forgetting that I was learning English.  I would be too rapt in unpacking the necessary theories of oppressed peoples with Mr. Flores helping me navigate and negotiate my own biases and privilege. David gets a gold star for reminding me of this quote...


Dr. Bristol and Dr. Watson led a fantastic session on "Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and STEM." The outcome completely surprised me in a wonderful way. This particular session definitely made me wish I was back in the classroom. The four-step framework presented in their session merged the ideas of social justice with STEM.  These two concepts are often discussed and suggested together to teach lessons that are more relevant to students' personal lives. However, they are rarely presented in such a practical way like Dr. Bristol and Dr. Watson shared.

This post is dedicated the change agents that amplify the voices of teachers and students within and beyond their reach. I'm especially grateful to the entire WWTF team for allowing us to revisit and refresh our craft as teachers and for amplifying our voices that too often go unheard.

Dedicated to Civil Disobedience...

Everyday I dedicate my life to education. Too often there are moments that make me pause, and my mind reaches towards my students. Mind racing, I ask... 

Are they ok?  mentally? physically?


Will they know what to do as they are protesting? profiled? practicing civil disobedience?

Will human instinct take over? Or will they strengthen themselves in Dr. King, in Ghandi or in Bree Newsome?

Will any consequences be soul affirming? or senselessly tragic?

This post is dedicated to the courageous of now and the fierce, fearless ancestors that fought without record and without reward.

Dedicated to Innovators...


TED Speaker Richard Turere is one of my inspirations for, and he gave his TED talk at just 12 years old! His story is just one of the small instances that I have been collecting and using to create lessons to bring to fruition.

I don't remember exactly when I first did the Marshmallow Challenge, but it must have been during my Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship. Together, former WWTF Director, Dr. Dersh, and 7 time TED Speaker, Tom Wujec, are a couple of my personal heroes for showing me the power of collaboration and acknowledging hidden assumptions through the Marshmallow Challenge.

The Marshmallow Challenge is the perfect way to teach collaboration and hidden assumptions in a fun and collaborative way. It is so great in fact, it is the first of many lessons that I'm featuring as part of my TED-Ed Innovation Project. I've conducted this lesson with every class I've ever taught because it sets the tone in the classroom as a collaborative and innovative space. Click here to see and support my project.


However, my favorite inspirations are the many students I've taught over the years. They've taught me more about life and innovation in education than perhaps I've taught them about STEM.

This post is dedicated to innovators like my students and like Richard, Tom, Charles and teachers around the world whose lessons (aka innovations) yield HUGE results and taught more than they would ever know!

Dedicated to the Builders...

What are we building today that will last 1,000 years?
— Chris Anderson, @TEDchris, TED Curator

Just a few days back from #TEDSummit, I feel like a magnet, trying to pull and slide back to Banff. Today, I especially felt that pull as I forcibly get back into the groove of my often tumultuous work in education. However, I am grateful, blessed really, for the "in-between times" (Thank you Jen Ward!) that allow me to reflect and take on more positive perspectives of the frustrating and fickle times that are inevitable in this work. 

I truly miss the warm smiles and unending feeling of connectedness from TED's radiant amalgam of individuals. Thankfully, is nothing short of amazing, and I can refresh those vivid memories and share them here.

Chris opened #TEDSummit with a fascinating question to which the answer is simply "ideas that stand the test of time, pushing past borders and encouraging compassion."  In the wake of the political tectonic plates shifting our global landscapes, Chris and many other #TEDSummit speakers urged us all to champion "ideas of inclusion and tolerance... now more than ever." 

This post is dedicated to all the "Builders," who think thousands of years down the road. I'm grateful for the positive and adverse situations that put my perceived daily grind in perspective, and if i'm being honest, in check. My grind is a reminder to build for 1,000 years, not just for next semester.

Dedicated to Freedom Fighters...

Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?
— Bob Marley

Happy 4th! One thing that really resurfaced for me and really sank deep during my recent international travel was how fortunate we truly are here in the United States. I also saw the documentary, "He named me Malala," recently.


I thank God, my creator, for providing a world that is increasingly tolerant of all education. I'm grateful for the blessing to contribute to the advancement of STEM and rise of higher education, particularly for girls and young women. Yet, as I roll up my sleeves and think of my beloved alma maters, I know I have work to do.

I dedicate this post to freedom fighters who press on despite the mountains surrounding them.

Dedicated to those who Love + Give = Live...

I am always shocked (floored really) when people, especially those I love, go above and beyond for me.

For example, my best friend, Courtney, gave me points to fly to DC for an interview. I know I got the job because of her. She really pushed me, edited my cover letter and resume, and even booked a hotel room for me for the job's orientation. These are just a few ways that she's been the light in my life.

Another example is Antyrio, I affectionately call Rio, who is and continues to be a God-send. In the whirlwind rush to move me from Detroit to my new job in DC, he was there every step of the way. I was fully prepared to be evicted, but he stepped in and paid my rent for 4 months.

I rarely experience love like this outside of my family. That said, I think I rarely give like this either. And the fact that both of these people live 8+ hours away by car, shakes me even more.

This post is dedicated to Courtney, Antyrio, my mom, aunts, uncles and grandma too, and to those who live through loving and giving. I'm eternally grateful to you all. I promise to up my giving game.

Dedicated to Dreamers...

Here are just a few ideas I want to send out into the universe and beyond.

This post is dedicated to Dreamers, and remember it only takes a spark to spread like wildfire. To my new Family and new followers, keep the #TEDSummit momentum going.

Dedicated to Adventurers...

— Ashley Huffmon, TED-Ed Innovative Educator

TED changed my life in 10,317 steps. This is how many steps I walked last night, BEFORE my phone died. Five of us left from dinner downtown to return to Banff Centre. I decided to walk to the shuttle. Two blocks in, I missed my turn to the shuttle, and I panicked! My subconscious must have known something that I didn't. I kept going. We continue walking in pitch. black. darkness. Truth is, I've suffered from anxiety all my life. I asked myself, "Is safety more important than new friends?" I finally arrive safely. I took 10,317 steps to make four lifelong friends and a new perspective on adventure and healing.

This post is dedicated to adventurers in action and in thought like my fellow TED-Edsters Ashley Huffmon, Natalie Coleman, Shameka Dior Willams and Bojana Golubovic.