STC Spotlight: Desiree Jones, BRICK Peshine Academy teacher

Welcome to the STC Spotlight Series, where we shine light on the incredible progress being made by STC staff, schools, students, and teachers! Check out our short interviews on what inspires them, their work, and what it means to be a “student that can.”


Can you walk us through your role in the Design Day Challenge and your experience as part of the Real-World Learning PLG? What makes it such an exciting part of real-world learning?

My role in the Design Day Challenge is to be a facilitator by allowing the students to question, think, discover and create. In my experience, when students are given the opportunity to participate in a project that is connected to their community or their home, they tend to be more engaged.  Last year’s Design Day Challenge was directly connected to their community. I watched and listened to the excitement of the students. One of my students asked me this question, “Will they really look at choosing one of our designs for the Barge in Newark?” I replied, yes it is possible. The smile on the student’s face was all I needed to know that they were going to apply themselves to the project. I am my students’ cheerleader to motivate them to do something different.

It is important that students know that what they are doing has meaning.  The real world learning let our students really get engaged. As a teacher, it challenged me to also think outside of the box, to stretch my thinking about how my students can engage in solving a real world problem.

As an educator, participating in the Real World Learning PLG is an opportunity for me to collaborate through the lens of how we can incorporate real world learning across disciplines that will be meaningful and, mostly, impactful to our students.  As a team, we are all allowing our own creativity to shine and burst forward. We are able to share the strategies that will make it happen through check-ins.  

What inspires you?

I am inspired as an educator when I try new lessons or projects that my student engage in. I am so inspired when I observe students working on a project and I hear them talking it through, asking questions and allowing their imagination and creativity to emerge. I am also inspired when students make connections to the teaching and viewing an article, video, presentation or field trip – a lightbulb turns on.

I am inspired when I have a student that was struggling to understand a lesson and/or collaborate in their group and see them emerge into their own, making connections, working in a group, contributing to the project. The smile just makes it all worthwhile.

To you, what does it mean to be a “student that can” or a “school that can?”

A student that can indicates that it is possible.  It does not mean that you are a student that it comes easily for, but rather, you can press through the challenges “to get it” and be successful. Now, success can be defined in various ways. Success to one student may not be success to another, however, success is possible for all.

A “school that can” indicates that the entire school community is willing to embark upon a process to explore, discover, and engage in the pursuit of cultivating the creativity of children. It is a school that can handle the failures, disappointments, challenges that encumbers the process. This is a school that is also willing to go outside of the box to discover. Discovery is sometimes uncharted territory, because you know what you want the outcome to be. However, you don’t know exactly what each step will look like because you are dealing with the minds of individuals.

What is something you wish people knew about your job? What are you proudest of?

I wish people knew that it takes time for students to allow their creativity to flourish.   wish that people knew that science is a component that is a part of everything in our world.  Science opens up the world to students through discovery, exploration and innovation.

I am proudest about being able to work with students on project based learning ideas that are connected to their world. I am proud of one recent project that my 8th graders developed to solve a problem in their school.  They came up with a possible solution through their own effective research. They researched the background and developed and created a model to explain their proposed solution. They participated in a STEM fair and were able to articulate the facts with passion and clarity. I was so proud of them.  This experience, I believe, has now enabled and empowered them to know that their creativity is important.

What advice would you give a student to inspire them during back-to-school season?

I would advise the student the following:

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

You can do more than what you think you can.

You are not using all of your brain’s capacity for learning.

Absorb everything your teacher puts before you.

Ask questions continuously and be willing to find a solution

Everyone learns differently; find out the best way that you learn and work it!

Strive for excellence by knowing excellence may look different for you.