Many thanks to Jeny Ayres who kicked off the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Session. That blog ended up being one of the top 20 most read blogs, we’ve ever had here on the site.
For the next Q&A session, I thought it’d be important to move the focus away from food and to a person who’s made an impact in our community.
The next person in our Q&A series is a person who’s done exactly that. She’s a teacher in our community, she’s a Wichita Business Journal 40 Under 40 alum, and she’s helped kick off one of the coolest projects that many of you may have never heard of: Project L.I.N.C. This is someone I went to college with and can say is one of the most genuine and nicest people I know.
Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Stacey Ryan as the next guest in our Q&A Series.
Eddy: Thank you Stacey for joining us for the next Wichita By E.B. Q&A Session! Could you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Stacey: I’m going into my 15th year of teaching math at Andover Middle School, in the same community where I grew up. I’m an alumni of WSU, which is where I met my husband, Aaron. We’re blessed with two amazing and crazy kids; I’m happiest when I am with my family. As a middle school math teacher, I love to see students take on leadership roles for their peers and their community. I’m passionate about bringing math to life through real world connections which includes connecting with experts in person or via Skype. (Check out my collaborative project with Luke Luttrell, COO of Next LED here https://sway.com/9grq_hef127AUWat). I’m also an advocate for project and problem-based learning and connecting students with other classes around the world.
Eddy: In my opinion, teaching is one of the most underappreciated jobs. I vividly remember wanting to be a teacher for the longest time solely because of my third grade teacher Ms. Cox back at Magdalen. What led you to pursue a career in teaching?
Stacey: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have had some amazing teachers who have been mentors to me over the years. One of my goals as a math teacher is for my students to be confident in themselves and what we are learning, and also confident and comfortable enough to ask for or give help when needed.
Eddy: One thing the readers should know is that you’ve been in the news for something you started! It’s called Project L.I.N.C. What is it? (Note: You can check out the news story here: http://m.kwch.com/news/students-work-toward-solutions-for-clean-water-in-poor-countries/31205438?ver=7)
Stacey: Project LINC is a global collaborative project that includes 5 schools and 3 continents. Students in each of the schools worked together toward their common goal of providing clean water for our Skype friends in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Andover Middle School 6th and 7th grade students set two goals for the project: 1) to provide clean water for two schools in Nairobi 2) to provide clean water for the students’ homes.
By working together students were able to accomplish these goals! To date, both schools now have clean water as a result of a partnership with LifeStraw water filters manufactured by Vestergaard, who donated 7 Community LifeStraws for a total of 525 children. Students in Andover, Pennsylvania, and Greece raised enough money for the installation of 333 Family Life Straws for the students’homes, many of which were delivered in May and students in all of the schools were able witness during a group Skype call. Students are continuing to raise funding for additional homes through the sale of a fairy tale written and published by our partner school in Greece.
As a result of this project, students were able to apply what they were learning in their classes to find solutions to a real-world problem; they also learned the power of using collaboration and one united voice to bring positive change to the world.
As a result of the students’ work, collaboration, and innovation, Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom has produced a documentary (to be released soon) about the project.
Eddy: That is truly fantastic! How did the project begin?
Stacey: As a Skype Master Teacher, I am connected with other educators from around the world. Last October, Livingstone Kegode, a Skype Master Teacher in Nairobi, Kenya, shared that the water pipes in and near his school had burst, leaving the water contaminated with sewage water. My family started making plans to help; at the same time, I started thinking of all the math connections that relates to the water crisis and solution and I knew this is a problem I wanted my students to explore by connecting them to our grade level standards. Another Skype Master Teacher, Andrea Friend, started making plans for the project integrating the science standards, and the project quickly became a cross-curricular project incorporating not only math and science, but social studies, journalism, health, art, choir, and Student Council.
Another Skype Master Teacher, Iro Stefopoulou, and her students in Greece joined the project and volunteered to maintain the website. Then Michael Soskill, Skype Master Teacher in Pennsylvania, and his students joined our efforts as well, and the project became a global collaborative project.
Eddy: It truly is amazing how far technology has come. I remember having to do hand-written letters to students across the world for penpals. I believe thousands of years ago, students had to write tiny notes and attach them to birds ala Game of Thrones. Technology has come so far since we were in school and it is so exciting to see!
Stacey: Now classes can connect via Skype to schools across the world; my husband calls this the new generation’s version of pen pals. In the last year, our 6-year old has Skyped with experts and classes all over the USA, Greece, Kenya, Uganda, Ireland, Serbia, Saipan, and Japan. At age 6, I would not have even known those places existed. It inspires me to think about the learning opportunities for students using technology and 21st century learning skills to make education relevant and meaningful for them. In the words of my friend Jed Dearybury, facilitating these kind of learning experiences for students enables “the leaders of tomorrow to lead today”.
Eddy: One of my friends was in your class and just loved it. When I spoke with him, he was very receptive to it all. What’s been the rest of the student’s feedback with Project LINC?
Stacey: Students are motivated and inspired. Because of the difference in time zones, we had two early morning skype calls with the schools in Kenya, and more than 200 students came to school at 7 a.m. to participate in the calls. Students have spent time during their evenings and weekends presenting in the community to share about how they are using what they are learning in school to solve real-world problems. Not only is this project helping the students and families in Nairobi, it is serious learning for our students here. Students were determined to use what they were learning in school here to solve the water crisis an ocean away. That’s a pretty big responsibility and incredible accomplishment for our kids.
Being a part of Project LINC gave students a bigger perspective of the world. In the words of one student, “When I was little, I wanted to be a superhero…and now, it feels like we are!” and another, “I learned that even at a young age, you can change the world.”
Eddy: How could readers get some more information on Project LINC?
Stacey: The school in Greece we’ve partnered with maintains the website that details and documents the project. It has had over 14,000 visitors from all over the world since it launched in January and can be seen here http://projectlinc.clubefl.gr/.
The teachers involved in Project LINC also created a collaborative Sway which gives an overview of the project and can be viewed here: https://sway.com/xthRadhpmWAuOFFH.
Eddy: And lastly Stacey, everybody of course wants to know: Top Three Favorite Places to Eat in Wichita………GO!
Stacey: Jose Peppers, Blue River, Bonefish
Thanks again Stacey!