Laura Fernandez
Mount Pleasant, IA

Laura Wood-Fernandez (BA ‘09/MAT ’13) forges new ground as a science teacher in Mount Pleasant thanks to a grant to redesign her classroom and a partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education.

Mount Pleasant Community Middle School was one of four Iowa schools chosen to receive funding from the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council to build an innovative new STEM classroom. The room is based in part on interactive classrooms on the University of Iowa campus.

To help make the most of her new technology-rich environment, Wood-Fernandez is collaborating with Mark McDermott (PhD ’09), a clinical associate professor in science education and the College’s STEM coordinator.

McDermott, a native of Traer, and his methods students interacted with Fernandez’s students as outside experts discussing a science concept via video chat. Fernandez also recorded part of a lesson using the technology in her classroom and discussed it with McDermott’s methods students.

“It’s interesting to examine how we best utilize a classroom like the one in Mount Pleasant,” McDermott says. “It’s also beneficial to be able to show my students this sort of alternative classroom and let them think about how they would use a classroom like that differently.”

Fernandez, a native of Burlington, says collaborating with McDermott and his students is enhancing her teaching. “Being able to talk with professionals in the field who are excited about what they do is powerful,” she says. “We all have the same goal in mind — what is best for the kids. I’m passionate about getting my students excited about science and interested in the world around them. Mark has inspired and aided me in creating exciting and interesting lessons that promote inquiry.”

McDermott and others at the College of Education are working with all four schools chosen for the redesigned classrooms, which include Davenport West High School, Des Moines’ Hoover High School, and Sioux Center High School. Educators from each school attended professional development on campus in November and continued to stay connected via video meetings.