January Featured Educator – Deanna Magill

image Deanna MagillThe students at Pierce Middle School in Milton, Massachusetts are taking project-based learning to the next level, thanks to this month’s Featured Educator, Deanna Magill. Following a student-centered approach, Deanna is a facilitator who guides her students through their exploration and discovery of all things STEAM. 

Four years ago Deanna received a grant to join the Northwestern University FUSE program. The grant allowed Deanna to be trained by FUSE and supply her classes with the materials needed to start a FUSE program in her school. Deanna returned from the program both excited and scared, but took the leap in starting FUSE, an interest-driven STEAM exploration class at Pierce. She did not know how the students would respond or how she would go from being the prime resource of information, to becoming a support specialist. Despite being nervous at first, Deanna has shined!  

Deanna delicately balances the support students need with the empowerment to potentially allow students to fail before overcoming challenges and succeeding. She also requires her students to self-reflect on a daily basis, fostering a growth mindset. Most of the time, Deanna is the one asking the questions, requiring students to discover the answers to their own questions on their own. Recently, her 7th and 8th grade classes embarked on a new FUSE challenge called Sculpty Pet. By virtually sculpting a ball of clay into a pet, students learn about symmetry, scale, and coordinate planes to place them in virtual worlds of their own design. The students also use a 3D printer to create a real world model of their pets. As they advance through multiple challenges, the final level is to create a virtual world for their pets complete with backgrounds and sculpting of other objects to complement their pet’s world. 

Deanna has implemented student-led conferences where students present their challenges and successes. She also allows students to follow their interests and passions, with plenty of opportunities for student choice in her class. Some teachers shy away from this because they may not be an “expert” in the area of interest of a student, but Deanna always embraces the challenge and is completely dedicated to supporting all students regardless of their interest area. To this end, she also developed an Advanced STEM course for students who wish to pursue their STEM skills further.

“Deanna is a true tech leader and a tremendous asset to our district. She empowers her students and allows them to share their voice, showcase their creativity, and follow their passion!”, states AJ Melanson, Director of Educational Technology at MPS. MassCUE is proud to recognize Deanna Magill for the amazing work she is doing to promote STEAM education for her students. Congratulations on a job well-done!

Deanna Magill is the STEAM teacher at the Pierce Middle School in Milton, and a 2020 recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Excite Award for her exemplary work facilitating project-based programs in a K-12 school. Follow her on Twitter @deannamagill.

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