“I don’t like to say no to what students want to do — often those crazy ideas can be the start of something that inspires us and actually works.” – Melissa Wrenchey, USA
Nikola Tesla STEM High School
Redmond, Washington, USA
Melissa Wrenchey is on a mission to get students excited about STEM learning – both in her classroom and in her community. In 2014, Wrenchey collaborated with a high school student to develop an after-school STEM program for middle school girls. It was a defining moment in her career.
“Every year this program goes through changes and it reflects the new high school students leading the training and new people we can reach,” she explains. “I get to facilitate this current internship and outreach program and it has made a huge impact on my practice. I am growing each year as a leader-mentor, and the mentored students are excited. Collectively we are helping more students to see themselves in STEM careers, and we have made a point of seeking opportunities to work with underrepresented youth as well.”
In her own classroom, Wrenchey – a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Trainer, MIE Fellow and MIE Expert – is focused on giving her students hands-on, real-world experiences, integrated into multiple subjects.
“To start off the school year, I did a small paper circuitry lesson with LEDs and coin cell batteries,” she tells us. “Then I worked with the Graphic Production teacher who taught fonts and font style. Students then designed a light up name tag to introduce themselves via FlipGrid. Students could introduce themselves to the class and show their paper circuitry name tag.”
Wrenchey likes to present challenges to get students familiar with ideas, circling back to the activity to reinforce the concepts.
“With advanced project applications with engineering design, students demonstrate choice and have more ownership of their work,” she explains. “Any product can be improved upon, and so we look again at the final product to talk about potential improvements.”
Passionate about social and emotional learning, Wrenchey helps students embrace who they are as citizens of the world.
“To make this concept more real, I focus on solving real problems, bringing adults into the classroom for guest speaking and using Skype in the Classroom to reach our neighbors in different time zones,” Wrenchey says. “When given the opportunity for students to see needs and opportunities outside of the classroom to make a difference, I often find myself trying that improvisational skill, ‘yes, and…’. I do not want to stifle that earnest curiosity and creativity. I don’t like to say no to what students want to do — often those crazy ideas can be the start of something that inspires us and actually works.”
About Melissa Wrenchey
- Educational background: MA in Language Arts from CSULB, EdD student in Curriculum and Instruction from Northeastern University
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: micro:bits with MakeCode; I love this tool to teach micro processing and the immediate programming applications with MakeCode.
- Favorite book: The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath and To Kill and Mockingbird. And as an educator: Ruby Payne and A Framework for Understanding Poverty. All have left an indelible impression on my life and life’s work.
- Website I check every day: Edutopia
- Favorite childhood memory: I was an awesome speller in elementary school, Mrs. Schneider was my biggest supporter!
- What is the best advice you have ever received? To say I am sorry to the students and be humble and human when I make mistakes.