The future workforce of our country has been a focal point for several years now, with corporate America stressing a need for more STEM-related content in education.
This need is being addressed in some school districts throughout Massachusetts, including Mashpee, where innovation is at the forefront of their exciting program. The architect of Mashpee’s premier STEM education program is Director of Career and Technical Education, Mike Looney. Mike is a true visionary who orchestrates innovative practices in his own district, as well as at the state level. His rare mix of business and vocational high school experience has laid the foundation for the contributor he is today in fostering STEM in education.
“I feel that STEM Education is extremely important today because it encourages students to think about processes to improve the world we live in.” says Looney, a proponent of project-based learning both in and outside of school. In this way, his students engage in learning experiences which are immersive and authentic. Innovation is a key factor in designing these learning experiences. Looney believes an innovative teacher has to be an opportunist and strategic risk taker. “I truly believe that innovative teachers support students to find something in school that can spark their interest which can potentially lead to a career path.” He has also noticed that innovative teachers tap into the resources around them, network with like-minded professionals, and never stop learning in their personal quest to create learning opportunities for students to succeed.
Connecting with students is another key to success. This is where Mike’s empathetic nature and genuine concern for his students’ well-being has helped. “I appreciate their position as a student in school, and the struggles they face throughout high school. They know I care and would do anything within my power to support them in any way I can.” His conscious effort in getting to know each of his students is a major factor in this regard.
The importance of STEM education has been a priority for Mike for years. In addition to developing Mashpee’s program, he has also held leadership positions for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts including serving on the Infrastructure Subcommittee to develop the first statewide STEM plan (for the Patrick administration) and the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council (for the Baker administration). A collaborative effort in this work is necessary to bring great programs to students, not only in his own district, but for others as well. Being a connected educator is key in making this happen. In Mashpee, this started as a collaborative effort by his department and a vision of programs. Support from all within the school also helps to foster success. This includes open mindedness, staying current in your field, becoming involved in professional learning networks. A gamechanger for Mike has been social media tools such as LinkedIN and Twitter. “These types of connectivity help teachers to continually learn and be in the loop to see what is happening beyond their own school.”
MassCUE is pleased to recognize Mike Looney as February’s Featured Educator. Congratulations on a job well-done!
Michael P. Looney, Sr. currently serves as Director of Career and Technical Education for the Mashpee Public School System, and has served as instructor of Technology Engineering Education at both the Mashpee middle and high school levels for the past 16 years.
Follow him on Twitter @mashpeetech