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SmartLab Facilitator Selected as Outstanding STEM Teacher

Written by Bill Laurienti

SmartLab Facilitator, Max Brooks, was selected as the NASA District of Columbia Space Grant Consortium Outstanding STEM Teacher!

It is hard to imagine anyone more deserving.

Brooks has been the SmartLab Facilitator at Friendship Public Charter School’s Woodridge SmartLab HQ since its installation in 2004. He has led the integration of technology in learning at Woodridge, and throughout the Friendship group of public charter schools.

Brooks’ influence goes well beyond his local leadership. He has inspired and been a role model for so many SmartLab Facilitators. He has innovated instructional methods and pioneered technology-enriched learning techniques that have been replicated in schools throughout the county.

One notable example is his pioneering of student ePortfolios. Brooks’ models, which were the basis for the system now used in SmartLab Learning labs across the country, enable robust documentation of student work throughout a learner’s academic career—documentation that is portable, accessible, and understandable by students, teachers, and parents, and provides an authentic basis for assessment of formative learning.

We asked Brooks to share his experience as a SmartLab Facilitator and his selection for this prestigious award:

“I am so thankful to be selected as the first-place winner in the NASA DCSGC Outstanding STEM Teacher Awards! Preparing the young minds of today to be thinkers and problem solvers is my passion. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines provide the fun, engaging challenges and opportunities that our kids need to be leaders in the 21st century. I consider it a privilege to work as an educator, but a true blessing to be recognized for my efforts.

Although I finished my undergraduate career with quite a few science and engineering courses under my belt and a math minor, I ultimately entered the field of education with a degree in Spanish. I quickly learned that to teach any discipline effectively, learners need to have deeply authentic experiences. Immersion is the best route. One of the true strengths of a learning environment, like the SmartLab HQ, is that it is a place where STEM thrives! 

From the moment kids and adults walk in the door, they realize that there is something special about the room. Everywhere they look, everywhere they move, they are surrounded by resources that promote inquiry and authentic learning. Whether it is building and programming robots, making music and videos, or developing portfolios of academic and extracurricular activities, learning is always taking place. Moreover, learners are always sharing their knowledge and skills. It is in our nature to want to learn and teach each other and that is what will help us solve our local and global issues of today and the future.

I consider my role of SmartLab Facilitator to be the person responsible for drawing in each stakeholder (students, parents, staff, administrators, the community) and helping them find a reason to stay engaged in education. By providing a high-quality education we can hope to achieve a better world. If STEM is the pathway to that goal, then I am blessed to have a SmartLab as my means of transportation.”

SmartLab Facilitator Max Brooks with Woodridge student
SmartLab Facilitator Max Brooks with Woodridge student
Bill Laurienti

Bill Laurienti is a Content Marketing Specialist at Creative Learning Systems. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education (English) from Colorado Mesa University and a Master of Arts in Secondary Teaching from the University of California's Rossier School of Education. Bill came to CLS after 10 years in the secondary classroom. He believes SmartLabs are important tools for engaging unengaged students and helping them access careers they might not otherwise have imagined.

Case Study

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Read about how the SmartLab HQ impacted both learners and enrollment.