Retiring Teacher Still Inspiring STEM Students in Detroit

Morning announcements. For eighth graders at Gompers Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, it was a chance to challenge their younger classmates with an academic “question of the day.” But for one particular group of fifth graders, it also became their time to shine.

These weren’t just any fifth graders. These were students in Glynis Flowers’s math class—and they just so happened to be really good at math. So much so that they were able to answer almost every eighth-grade level math question during those morning announcements. At one point the eighth graders even stopped answering the phone when they saw the fifth graders calling. They were that good.

Sometimes all students need is a little nudge. For Glynis, that meant putting her class in situations to help boost their confidence while also challenging them to push beyond what might typically be expected from fifth graders studying math.

The thing that made her classes truly special was her ability to bring out the best in all of her students—not just the ones that were good at math, but also the students who were struggling in the classroom. Even though she’s retiring after 30 years as a math teacher with Detroit Public Schools Community District, her passion for her students and STEM education is stronger than ever.

Glynis’s love for STEM started in 2010. An engineer from GM visited her classroom and told her about SAE’s A World In Motion (AWIM) JetToy Challenge. After that, as she puts it “It was just gravy.” The hands-on STEM program made learning accessible for every student in her class from the Tier 1 students to her Tier 3 students.

“When we started AWIM in the classroom, the Tier 3 students really stepped up. They wanted to be on the team and compete. If the axle wasn’t straight, they had a voice on the team and could speak up just like the Tier 1 and Tier 2 students,” said Glynis. They quickly started to realize “I can do this work,” boosting their confidence for the rest of the year.

The impact AWIM and STEM had on Glynis and her fifth graders is unmistakable.

There was the student who always said he wanted to be a football player. He became the captain of his AWIM team and went to the international JetToy Competition along with 500 other students held during the SAE International WCX World Congress Experience in Detroit. At the last parent-teacher conference his parents commented on how much he’d grown, how he overcame his low test scores, and how now when he’s asked what he wants to be, he corrects them when they say “football player” and instead says he wants to be an engineer.

There was the fifth-grade math whiz who was already testing at a sixth and seventh grade level. AWIM was the spark that got her interested in engineering. She was part of an all-girls team that competed in the international JetToy Competition at WCX right after the movie Hidden Figures came out. She’s now about to enter high school and was one of 30 middle school girls selected to participate in the prestigious Girls in Engineering Academy through the Engineering Society of Detroit.

And then there was Glynis. Even though she’s retiring, she’s still signing up for STEM professional development courses. “I was aware of STEM but AWIM put me in love with it and I sent that love on to my students. I’m retiring, but if it involves STEM I’m going to be there.”

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