Kingman educator part of program that keeps teachers engaged

Kingman Academy Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Celeste Lucier, middle, with Kingman FIRST Robotics Team 60 students Serenity Shelby, left, and Rebecca Leggett. (Courtesy)

Kingman Academy Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Celeste Lucier, middle, with Kingman FIRST Robotics Team 60 students Serenity Shelby, left, and Rebecca Leggett. (Courtesy)

KINGMAN - Crowded classrooms, tight budgets, changing curriculum standards and constantly shifting class schedules between the school districts ultimately take a toll on teachers young and old alike.

Kingman Academy Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Celeste Lucier put herself in the position to enrich both teaching and learning effectiveness throughout Arizona.

As a member of the Arizona Science Teachers Association Teacher Leadership Program, she recently received part of an $86,000 grant from the Arizona Public Service Foundation.

Lucier described the leadership program's goal of putting veteran teachers in mentorship roles with novice teachers in rural areas.

"They paired us up with new teachers in their first or second year of teaching. Data shows that new teachers who aren't mentored don't last long. Maybe five or six years," she said. "This program was put in place to offer support for those new teachers. It's kind of a two-way street. They come in with fresh ideas and we both learn something."

Lucier is a 16-year teaching veteran and currently has 126 students at the Kingman Academy Middle School. She's specialized in eighth-grade science for the last four years. She applied for the grant in 2012 and has been involved with the leadership program ever since.

"What's unique about this is that it's not necessarily in our own community. My protégé is in Payson," she said.

"It really helps connect teachers in the rural areas. The people in Phoenix have plenty of resources."

Weekly mentor/protégé email communication is highly encouraged. Portions of the grant cover stipends that include travel expenses for mentors to meet with their subjects and registration to the annual ASTA Conference held each year in Phoenix.

Developing and improving professional leadership skills are huge byproducts of the program.

"I didn't necessarily see myself as a leader. I thought, 'I'm just a teacher, not an administrator,'" Lucier said. "This changes that paradigm. I'm a leader in my classroom. I can be a leader to my peers."

Lucier stressed the importance of science education, how science is relevant to her students, specifically how Science Technology Engineering and Math, or STEM, education influences her teaching style.

"These (science and technology) areas are exploding. You need to be well-educated," she said. "They may not become scientists, but they should be able to read a (science-related) article and have some sort of foundation.

"Science connects everything. Yes, there is math in science. They need to learn to make the connection. Science is the application of what they're learning in math. It's important to make those connections."

Lucier emphasized how Arizona science teaching criteria will be changing soon and how communication with other instructors plays a role.

"Right now we have AIMS science standards. The language arts and math have gone to Common Core.

"Science standards have not been revamped yet."

She frequently meets with other teachers in person and via webinar from Arizona to include Bullhead City and Lake Havasu.

"It's exciting to be able to share what I have with other teachers. A lot of them didn't know the standards were changing. It's exciting to help them along."