Brittany Garrett taught for 4.5 years as a Teach Kentucky math educator at Thomas Jefferson Middle School before recently taking a new position as the Kentucky State Program Manager for MakerMinded. MakerMinded is a new free program designed to encourage middle and high school students and schools to participate in local STEM activities, particularly related to advanced manufacturing.
Brittany learned about his opportunity through Teach Kentucky staff. We support our educators by providing access to varied networks and professional opportunities. We are so excited for Brittany and her new role. This past week, we sat down with her to find out more about her work.
TKY: Congratulations on your new role as Kentucky’s State Program Manager for MakerMinded! Can you tell us a little more about the organization and what you will be doing for it?
Brittany: Sure! MakerMinded provides free STEM-centered resources to Kentucky middle and high school schools and their students. On the MakerMinded website, we feature a variety of hands-on STEM activities and competitions. Every time a student or group of students participates in one of those activities, they earn points for their school. At the end of the year, the schools with the most points win a Virtual Reality program for their school and will be recognized at an awards ceremony.
My role is to customize the activity portfolio to include programs from local employers or organizations, develop strategies to engage middle and high schools across the state, ensure that state leaders (in education, workforce development, and economic development) know about MakerMinded, and ensure that manufacturers in Kentucky know about the program. MakerMinded is funded by LIFT (Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow) and I am working with KAM (Kentucky Association of Manufacturers) and FKI (Foundation for Kentucky Industry) to make all of this happen.
TKY: This sounds like a wonderful new opportunity for you! How did you find out about the job and decide to apply for it?
Brittany: I found out about the job through Teach Kentucky’s New Teacher Induction and Support Coordinator, Isabel Maremont Lake, when she sent out an email a few months ago with the job description. While I have enjoyed teaching over the last several years, I had felt like I was needing some sort of change at the end of this school year, but wasn’t planning on looking for anything until spring or summer. This position was for immediate hiring, so I was a little skeptical about leaving in the middle of the year, but I ended up accepting the job because I knew it was a position that would only come around once. Since it combined both my marketing and teaching backgrounds, I couldn’t say no.
TKY: What excites you most about this role?
Brittany: I’m excited about exploring the unfamiliar territory – I have one colleague in Tennessee who is a few months ahead of me in terms of launching MakerMinded, but it’s just me in Kentucky so I have a blank slate and lots of room to grow. For me, the exciting part of teaching was being able to show students how what they were learning could be applied in the “real world” and that’s exactly what MakerMinded is all about – connecting students and industry.
TKY: What types of new experiences do you anticipate having in this role?
Brittany: I think the most important new experience will be developing relationships with all of the people and organizations involved in MakerMinded. I won’t just be working with teachers and students, I will also be interacting with manufacturers, KDE, government officials, etc. so I’ll be able to implement the marketing and communication skills that I developed in college.
TKY: How was your previous position as a classroom educator benefit you in this role?
Brittany: As a former teacher, I have ideas about what kind of activities to add to MakerMinded that will engage students and ideas about how to communicate this with teachers in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming. I know that I would want to use MakerMinded if it could seamlessly fit into my classroom, so this will help me when pitching to schools. I can also speak to this when I’m communicating with partnering organizations because I can reassure them that this is worth their time since it is easy for teachers to use. And probably the biggest benefit is having such a huge network of teachers already in place!