Name: Michelle Laskowski
Graduation Year: 2015
Degree: Mathematics, Concentration in Secondary Education
- Fife High School Math/Computer Science Teacher in Fife, Washington: Computer Science,
Video Game Design, Robotics, Cyber Security, Financial Algebra and Competition Robitics
- Masters of Natural Sciences in 2019 at Louisiana State University under advice of
Dr. Frank Neubrander and Mr. Fernando Alegre
- Math High School Teacher in East Baton Rouge Parish
Michelle Laskowski, GeauxTeach STEM Alumni
Q: What do you do in your current position, and what makes you happy to be doing it?
- Yeah, probably my favorite [class to teach] is Robotics. It's a very hands on class.
It is a very student driven class. First off, the 'hands on' is the best part of it.
Students right now are so attached to their phones. It's so bad post-pandemic. And
so in my Robotics class, that's not a battle that I'm ever trying to fight. There
are so many moments where I just look around, and there's not one kid on their phone,
and they're all tinkering without me standing next to them/making them do work. And
so, the thing that makes me the happiest is letting the kids really be creative and
be hands on. [They] take an idea and go far with it. I really never tell them, ‘No’.
I have a bunch of 3D printers in my room, and even kids in other classes ask, ‘Oh,
can I print something?’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ I also have a bookshelf.
And so I've got kids that ask me, ‘Oh, what's that book about?’ I respond, ‘Here,
have it. Go home, read this, and then bring it back to me.’ Igniting the curiosity
and helping them flourish in their curiosity is probably what makes me the happiest.
- Video Game Design [is another favorite class of mine] because students that are really
into programming can really take the programming to a whole new level. But the kids
that are really into art, that maybe have less programming knowledge that they can
apply, get to spend so much time graphically designing their sprites and animating
them. We ultimately put it into a game, and I bring it to the Art Show. Then, the
whole town gets to come play their games. The duality of the accessibility of [Video
Game Design] is a favorite part of the class for me. Letting the kids come to class
with an idea where maybe I don't know how to help, but we look it up together/continuously
learn/bring lots of their ideas to life is my favorite part of that class.
Michelle keeping score during the final battle in robotics class
Q: What are some highlights that you have experienced in your career?
- I just submitted my last component for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (National Board) Certification. So, hopefully in December I will a board certified
teacher of Career and Technical Education (CTE) which is really exciting...After I
got my master's degree, I feel like this was the next greatest kind of professional
goal and professional development that I could really go for. It really helped me
reflect on my practice. The standards are around 93 pages long. So the fact that you
memorize those, learn them, and know them by heart helps you really be an accomplished
teacher. You think, 'Oh, yeah, that's right. This is what fantastic, accomplished
teaching looks like.' It's a really good review of how to be the best in your profession.
- I feel like every year is a highlight. Every year has new challenges, and at the end
of every school year, you really just get to reflect on how you've overcome those
challenges. I think learning with the students is a huge highlight of my job…Getting
to know the students and really getting to build those relationships with them [is
a highlight]. Another highlight of my career would be working with students where
I've taught them 3 years in a row. That's a powerful experience because we’re growing
with and learning from each other.
- Something I'm really getting into is programming LED lights and combining the idea
of programming with art. I’m working on a project where I've got industrial tech students
building me a piece of wood so that ultimately my Arduino board will go in the center
with a joystick. You'll be able to control the lights of the flower/art subject in
different ways by whatever direction you put the joystick in. So that's been a really
recent evolution and highlight…Nobody at my school has been integrating art and computer
science before…I’m doing a professional development [this summer] where we are building
circuits where you take these LED circuits, incorporate them into pictures or 3D prints,
and then incorporate LED lights. So, it's not that my school wasn't using technology
before me, but I think I'm using it in a way to provide more accessibility to students
that maybe never considered how programming could be relevant to themselves.
Rookie year competition robotics team photo
Q: What were the most significant takeaways or benefits you gained during your undergraduate
I think the most important lesson or experience [from GeauxTeach STEM] is to network
with your peers because that's going to be your greatest support group. I'm still
friends with a lot of the people from my cohort, and we talk regularly about our jobs.
Since we all live in different states, it's always exciting to be able to compare
like, ‘Hey, is this a problem? Is this a regional problem, or is this a national problem?’
I really think that the most valuable undergrad experience would be networking with
your peers and with your professors. I would not be where I am today without honestly,
Ms. Besson (Master Teacher, retired), Ms. Carlin (Master Teacher, retired), Dr. Neubrander, and Dr. Madden…I don't think any of us teachers would be where we are today, and still feeling the
passion to serve the students that we serve without all of their influences.
Q: What did you learn in GeauxTeach STEM that informs how you think about teaching
or how you approach your job? What skills did you learn in GeauxTeach STEM that have benefited you in your career?
[GeauxTeach STEM] really pushed the inquiry based lessons. Not that every lesson has
to be inquiry based, but I think, the reflection bit of a lesson and recognizing [every
lesson] doesn't have to be that way forever [is important]. Picking one lesson in
every unit every year and doing some internet research on how you can teach a lesson
in a different/more engaging/more student-centered way is something that GeauxTeach
did a great job of giving us a mindset to do. They taught us how we can reframe a
lesson to be more student centered.
Michelle helping a student debug their code.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Just keep in contact with the people that you went through undergrad, or grad school,
with. If you can create a cohort out of those folks and keep doing professional developments,
take advantage of every opportunity. This year I'm actually going to the 2023 CSTA
(Computer Science Teachers Association) Annual Conference. When I did math, I went to the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Annual Meeting, and it was so life changing. It was amazing. I left and thought,
‘Wow, there are so many new ideas.’ I think that if you're thinking about where to
go once you're a teacher, just keep taking advantage of the professional learning
opportunities. You're gonna love it. You're gonna meet so many new people. And you're
always going to stay on top of what's exciting.