I didn’t have plans to be a woman in STEM, but then again STEM wasn’t a thing when I started my journey to a career in engineering and technology in the early 90s. I was born last and the only girl to my parents in Richmond, Indiana, during the energy crisis in the early 1970s. My brothers and I spent much of our time outside playing with friends and making sure the street lights didn’t catch us before getting home in the evening. As far back as I can remember, I have always been a quiet, sensitive, funny, creative, innovative, and determined person. I loved music, crafting, and spending time with my maternal grandparents, sewing with my grandma, and woodworking with my grandpa in the garage.
In the beginning, I would say my talent leaned more toward the artist side of things. I sang in the church choir, played the clarinet in elementary, middle, and high school bands, made art, cards, and stuff for my family and friends. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I began to develop my skills in STEM. Along with college preparatory classes, I took several industrial arts classes including drafting, metal fabricating, and woodworking. I also worked for Dana Corporation my senior year in the work trades program. I left school half day and worked in Dana’s drafting and CAD departments for almost a year before heading off to college. I was almost always the only female and that did not change much once I entered Purdue. Purdue Polytechnic, then known as the College of Technology, was where I landed and would finish my degree in Industrial Engineering Technology.
I can tell you how to be successful, or I can lead and empower you by providing the space, time, and opportunity for success.
I worked in industry, started a grad program, got married, and was a stay-at-home mom for nearly a decade before I got my call to teach. Each of these roles prior to teaching has shaped my classroom management, pedagogy, curriculum, and the person I am today. I can honestly say that you must embrace your whole self. Not just the good parts. Not just the professional parts, but also those formative years that truly shape us. I don’t want to forget using my dad’s tools to take things apart, “fix my bike” or build a Barbie house in the back yard, because they also fostered my creativity and innovative spirit.
Over the years I would learn many lessons in life both personally and professionally that have shaped the person I am today. There is some good (mostly good) and some bad, but we hopefully learn from our mistakes and become better. I have been in spaces where my voice and skills were underestimated and silenced. It stills you; it hurts you. It makes you question why you are even in those spaces. I have also been in spaces where I was championed and respected. That is wonderful. I have shared a little piece of my history with you in hopes you will understand it is not one thing that shapes us. Yes, we have some defining moments, graduating college, getting married, and raising a family, but each experience brings us closer to being our best selves.
Being a woman in STEM, a creative innovator, an engineering and technology teacher, and Indiana’s 2022 teacher of the year is just one part of me. I am thankful to God, my family, husband, and children for investing in me, helping me achieve my goals and dreams. As a community leader, I, no, WE must invest in our people. Lift them up mentally, physically, and spiritually. I can tell you how to be successful, or I can lead and empower you by providing the space, time, and opportunity for success. God has blessed me with a gift (He has blessed all of us with gifts), and I want to share it with as many people as I can. The best is yet to come … look up!