Public employees across the nation give back to their communities in extraordinary ways every single day. From donating to food banks to helping neighbors and protecting their communities, public employees have always been there when their community needs them the most. 

Here are two stories of teachers committed to keeping learning fun, while challenging their students in and outside the classroom:

How a Teacher Joined a Movement to Keep Black Girls Involved in STEM by Nadra Nittle. When Atiyah Harmon began teaching and tutoring students in Math in 2005, she noticed a disparity in young girls’ excitement for math, particularly Black girls.  “I noticed around sixth grade the girls were still super excited to know the math, and around seventh or eighth, they would kind of veer away,” she said. “It was just like, ‘This is interesting. What’s going on here?’” Growing up, Harmon always had a “knack” for math, even participating in citywide math competitions in Philadelphia where she lived. However, as she progressed through high school, she felt that she lacked teachers that challenged and encouraged her, extinguishing the excitement she had towards the subject. Though she found her way and ended up pursuing a career in math, she wanted Black girls to have a different experience than she did. In 2020 she founded Black Girls Love Math, joining the 21st-century movement across the country to spark Black girls’ interest in STEM subjects where girls and women of all racial backgrounds are underrepresented. Self-advocacy is a skill that Harmon feels she lacked back in her high school days, but she is committed to equipping her students with the skill so “they can stand up for themselves when others have low expectations for them and don’t encourage them to reach their academic potential

White Rock Elementary Schools Host Rocket Launches by Carol A. Clark. Rocket Clubs from two New Mexico schools, Chamis and Piñon Elementary, hosted a rocket launch for their fellow classmates for the first time since 2019. At Chamisa Elementary, teachers Robert Judd and Megan Lee, guided students in learning about and building rockets, with the help of community volunteers. Rocket Club members at Piñon Elementary started building their rockets over spring break. Fran Flesner, a teacher at Piñon, and sponsor of the rockets club said, “It is a good experience for the students. They get to select the rocket they want to build. Each kit comes in pieces that they put together to make their rocket. They learn the correct terminology for the rocket parts and the construction of the rocket.” Launch day is the most exciting day for students. They place their rocket on the launch pad, and as the crowd is counting down, they press the button that makes their rocket launch into the sky. “The look on the students’ faces as their rockets launch makes all the effort and hard work worthwhile,” Flesner said. “I would encourage all schools to have a club,” Lee added. “The students loved it. So many of the students in third and fourth grades said they want to join the rocket club when it is their turn.”

Be sure to check back the week after next for more stories of public employees giving back to their communities!