Local Education Experts Share the Latest in Learning

These Q&As cover high school, college, STEM and more.

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The Importance of STEM 

Elizabeth Taylor: Director of STEM, Milwaukee School of Engineering 

Why is it important to introduce students to STEM at a young age?

Research has shown that late elementary and middle school are critical points in a student’s development of ability and interest in STEM subjects. Seeing the spectrum of opportunities in STEM – from health care to fashion to rocketry – is critical to giving students the ability to fully evaluate their interests and talents. MSOE offers year-round STEM programs for K-12 students that range from single-day sessions to semester-long activities, such as coding clubs and a community robotics team. We focus especially on topic areas that students may not get exposure to in school, such as artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. 

What kind of hands-on STEM learning experiences can K-12 students expect with MSOE programs?

In every program, students work collaboratively with others to solve problems. Depending on the program, they could be working on digital design, prototyping, artificial intelligence with our AI robots, and more. Students can expect to be challenged to think differently about both familiar and unfamiliar problems and learn to solve them in creative ways using science, technology, engineering and math. In 2020, we opened the We Energies STEM Center at MSOE. We also continue to work with nonprofit, community and corporate partners to ensure equitable access to STEM opportunities for educators and families, and the Center has been critical to supporting that goal.

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The Future of Nursing 

Teresa Kaul: Chair of the Department of Nursing, Carroll University 

What is the state of the nursing shortage in Wisconsin?

We’ve had a serious shortage for years now. COVID has only made it worse. Nurses are the largest health profession in the country, and the key component to the health care system. When you don’t have enough nurses, health outcomes suffer.  

How is Carroll University working to train new generations of nurses to plug that gap?

We’ve developed a master’s in nursing degree launching this fall. It’s for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. They may be working and thinking, “I don’t really like what I’m doing. I don’t feel fulfilled.” They want to do something that makes a difference. There are so many career opportunities in nursing. For this program, they can come back to school for 20 months, leave with a master’s degree, and then sit for the exam to become a registered nurse.   

What sets Carroll’s nursing program apart from others?

We’re ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin. We have small class sizes and awesome faculty who still practice nursing, so they know the reality in hospitals. We have a state-of-the-art simulation center, where students learn before dealing with real patients.  

Nursing comes with a lot of responsibility, but it is an amazing profession. It’s a wonderful feeling to be there when someone is delivering a baby, when they’re dealing with cancer, to help another human being on whatever journey they’re on. 

The Online Approach 

Eric Anderson: Director, KM Connect 

Where did the idea for KM Connect come from?

In Kettle Moraine School District, we’ve been using online courses for the better part of a decade. We’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t, and what we’ve found is in agreement with national data – many students thrive under online conditions. We created KM Connect for those students and their families. It’s an online school with fully synchronous classes that’s open to any student grades six through 11 in the state – not just Kettle Moraine School District – who wants to enroll for this fall. And we’re adding grade 12 in 2023-24.

What will a day of school look like for a KM Connect student?

First off, KM Connect will be year-round. There are decades of research that suggest students lose a lot of learning after a summer break. Smaller breaks lead to better retention and, research suggests, better mental health. Classes will be on a college-like schedule, alternating on different weekdays. A student can use their own computer if it meets our requirements. Otherwise, the district will provide laptops. If a student is simply doing online work by themselves, they lose community and collaboration, so our entire model revolves around being live and fully synchronous. The students will be learning together, and they’ll be expected to do the same work as at any brick-and-mortar school. I see KM Connect as a model for where education and society are headed.

A rendering of Wayland Academy’s Burnham Hall; Rendering by HGA Architects, courtesy of Wayland Academy

The Benefits of Boarding 

Joshua Labove: Dean of Enrollment and Financial Aid, Wayland Academy

How does living on campus im-prove the high school student experience?

Boarding school communities are beehives of activity. While a day school empties out at the end of classes, students enjoy every acre of our campus all day long. Because they live and learn alongside faculty, the adults at a boarding school like Wayland get to know students incredibly well. We learn how to inspire each of them to reach their potential. After years of missed and online classes, boarding communities like ours are more than school – they are consistent, fun and student-centered. 

What opportunities does a school like Wayland offer that other schools might not?

Some of the best experiences our students have here are outside of the classroom. At Wayland, we live on a 60-acre campus. Everything that’s here is here for the students. It’s routine for them to pick up private music lessons, throwing pottery, digital photography, because we have spaces dedicated to many activities here and we foster curiosity in our students.  

What kind of dormitory accommodations do you have?

We just built a new girl’s dormitory, Burnham Hall. The cornerstone of the new building is a two-story atrium with a study bar and a fireplace. The house lounges are full of activity: students playing cards, studying, living and learning together. We have students that come to us from Milwaukee who start out not boarding the full week, and they quickly realize there’s so much fun and so many more opportunities to be had staying here.

The Key to Teaching Math  

Derek Pipkorn: Co-owner, Mathnasium 

Can a student recover if they are years behind in their math education?

Yes, definitely. Math builds on itself. If you don’t have those early foundational skills, it’s going to make it a lot harder to understand future concepts. We often work with kids who are quite far behind. For example, a fourth grader working at a second-grade math level. Unfortunately, schools can’t always address their individual needs. At Mathnasium, we make up that lost time by identifying their gaps and filling them to rebuild their foundation for later learning. Although most students attend year-round, many families come to us over the summer to prevent the ‘summer slide’ and get ahead in math.  

How does Mathnasium reach students who aren’t excited about math?

Math becomes a lot more fun when a student is being taught at their level and not being forced to work above or below it. We build an individualized learning plan for every student. All of our centers have engaging instructor teams that help our students build confidence and feel at ease. Additionally, any center you walk into, we have eye-catching and motivating rewards cabinets. As the students progress, they earn rewards and redeem them for prizes such as gift cards, tablets and video game systems. 

The Work-Based Way to Learn 

Laura Derpinghaus: Director of Marketing and Communications, GPS Education Partners 

What is work-based learning?

It’s a hands-on educational journey that helps prepare students for careers . There are so many great jobs available in the trades with strong wages and futures. At GPSEd, we want to reach kids around the start of high school and expose them to possible careers they may not be learning about in school. They can find a career path in the trades that they’re passionate about. Once they enroll with GPSEd, they actually get to test drive these careers by doing apprenticeships at real workplaces, like Generac and Waukesha Metal. They’re working and learning and gaining valuable hard and soft skills. 

Is a career in the trades a better option for some students than a four-year college?

It can be. Just look at the data for how many students have completed a college degree, but aren’t working in the field they studied – it’s over 50%. We think exposing students to the trades and all they have to offer is crucial so they can explore more career options before investing in post-secondary schooling. A trade career right out of high school saves valuable time, money, and it can align with a career path that leaves them more satisfied in the years ahead.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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