RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Valentine Museum’s Richmond History Makers award honors and celebrates the unsung work of individuals and organizations who strive to improve their communities.
One of this year’s honorees is the Virginia STEM coordinator, Chuck English, who was recognized for creating quality educational opportunities
English is a former high school physics teacher and is well-versed in the fields of STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. He moved to the Richmond area from out-of-state nine years ago to work at the Science Museum of Virginia.
STEM education operates with the goal of combining the four subjects cohesively to teach youth using real-world applications. While this task alone can take some creativity to pull off, English has also had this challenging during a global pandemic.
“This has been a great opportunity to take this job and help unify some of the efforts to create a better impact to help not just youth but everybody see the importance of STEM in their lives and create STEM literacy,” English said.
English has helped the museum programs operate and adapt during the pandemic, as well as making education fun and enjoyable for budding scientists.
“There are ways for us to work together to support enthusiasm,” he said. “The last thing I want to see is a child get excited about something but if that interest isn’t supported, that will wane very quickly.”
English says he wants use education to help show people how STEM subjects apply directly to real-life situations.
“A lot of it is trying to make sure it is relevant for people,” English said. “Part of it is understanding the pandemic, understanding COVID. Why are we wearing masks? When is the right time to get together? Learning these things through STEM is very important. To be more critical thinkers of how we are behaving and acting and how this might change. How do we use the tools and resources that we have available?”
English was at the forefront of creating a statewide commission for STEM education. In 2019, his vision became a regality when Governor Ralph Northam put Executive Order #36 into place, establishing the State STEM Education Commission in July 2019 — which was set to “create a unified statewide vision and dynamic set of shared goals to strategically inform how we prepare Virginia’s students for the STEM jobs of the future.”
Last week, legislation creating a STEM advisory board was passed in the House and Senate.
“We are really going to keep moving forward with Virginia STEM,” English said. “We just have to find a way to work together better and look for ways to be more sustainable.”
The most rewarding feeling for English is when a STEM subject clicks for a student understanding a concept.
And he looks forward to many more of those “AHA!” moments.