Empowering 6th Grade Students in Math and Science

By Tara Fort

Role models come in the form of relatives, community advocates, and sports celebrities, but the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) is lucky enough to have their own special group of role models at Granite Mountain School, collectively known as the Dream Team. The five women who work closely together in the Math and Science Department consist of Emma Gifford, Cara Foster, Chrissie Mealer, Kiersten Bolt and Joeli Tickner.  And, what a team they are!  In a field that is often underrepresented by women, these ladies will have many young girls thinking about pursuing Math and Science with excitement and promise.

Spearheaded by Emma Gifford, the group collaborates on the workload—and the passion. All agree that the team approach lessens the dual-subject load. Says Gifford, “The vast differences and multi-generations in our department is such an asset to our team. We build off one another and appreciate that we each come to the table with our own thoughts and ideas. We get girls excited by having our class be inquisitive-based. Our motto is ‘Stay Curious’”. Team member Cara Foster agrees, “We have a concerted focus on the integration of scientific thought at our school. We create opportunities for students to develop problem-solving skills through the application of real-life problems.” Team member Kiersten Bolt is in her second year of teaching Math and Science at Granite Mountain School. She cites the District for its support and opportunities the community provides, and says, “The students themselves make this job so enjoyable. I look forward to waking up every morning and teaching them, knowing that they want to learn.”

Team member Joeli Tickner has been teaching for 20 years in the areas of Mathematics, Intervention and Coaching, and enjoys the opportunities presented in the Granite Mountain Math and Science Department. She states, “One of the ways we promote Math and Science on a daily basis is to encourage young girls to participate in competitions such as the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-sponsored Girls Rock It Event which includes a structured tour and day filled with activities to encourage young women to explore courses of study like Engineering, Natural Sciences, Aeronautics, Global Interest or Aviation.” Chrissie Mealer is the newest member of the Dream Team as of January 2019. Mealer took over for a fellow instructor mid-year and comes with a wealth of knowledge about curriculum instruction and design. Already her participation has been a huge asset. Says Gifford, “Joining a team mid-year can be daunting, but Chrissie is such a hard worker. We are happy to have her experiences and enthusiasm as a part of our unique group.”

Variety through teaching keeps all members of the Dream Team energized, as they strive to live up to their title as a STEM certified school (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Adds Bolt, “Some of the STEM projects include creating various animal prosthetic limbs like a prosthetic leg for an elephant, a life jacket designed for a Corgi and a prosthetic bird beak for an eagle.” With partnerships that include the Arizona Science Center, ERAU, volunteers from the community and the City of Prescott the group has no intention of slowing down their efforts to encourage and inspire the next generation of students. For more information about these amazing women and PUSD, visit www.prescottschools.com.