The list of awards and commendations given to St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School’s new STEM Specialist and Science Department Head in the past few years is paralleled only by the incredible story of how Barbara Gosney’s professional journey led her to become part of the South Florida community.
At St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School, Gosney has joined the Science Department as STEM Specialist. She is weaving together her expertise in space education with the “next generation science standards” which were recently released and with the curriculum mapping of St. Thomas.
When students enter her classroom, they might find her in regular “teacher clothes” or they might find her in a tiedyed science lab coat and an Einstein wig. They sit at desk groups that are named with the team names of the International Space Station, like Tranquility, Leonardo, Columbus, Harmony, Cupola. Extremely impressed by the St. Thomas Robotics program, Gosney is excited to be working with the Robotics program at St. Thomas. She had written the grants for Lego Robotics for her school in Arizona.
Her own story demonstrates that science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM subjects) can become a person’s passion at any point.
Growing up in a town with a population of 200 in Iowa, Gosney did not encounter enrichment courses in school. She graduated from college with a major in elementary education and later obtained a master’s degree in special education. For 21 years, she worked in public schools in special education, “learning what makes kids tick,” and seeing the need for handson, exciting, engaging challenges in all modalities for children.
Not feeling confident teaching science and math, she took advantage of a professional development opportunity to attend the Mickelson ExxonMobil Science Academy in Houston the summer of 2009, and according to her, “that lit the fire!” She returned to her school in Arizona to start an afterschool STEM program.
By 2010 she was a team leader at the ExxonMobil program and the following year her students were collaborating with STEM students in Alaska. In the following three years, she received grants, opportunities, and recognition from the Walt Disney Company, NASA, Honeywell Corporation, Lego, the Air Force Association, Civil Air Patrol, and now Pitsco Education.
In the spring of 2013, before coming to St. Thomas, Gosney received an NEA grant to attend the Advanced Space Camp for Educators in Huntsville, AL. In May she was nominated by the Lego Foundation to be honored for the work she had done for STEM. Also in May, she received the Air Force ACE Award “for demonstrated excellence in education in the spirit of Christa McAuliffe…ensuring that America’s students are prepared for the aerospace technological challenges of the future.” That award had begun on the local level, proceeded to the state level, and was presented on the national level.
Her most recent award is Pitsco Education Teacher of the Month. Pitsco Education collaborates with Lego Group to create “unique and engaging hands-on sets and curriculum for science, technology, engineering, and math.”