Dena Scoullos is a technology and enrichment teacher for first through fourth grade in Haslet, New Jersey that also runs a small business on the side, selling teaching materials and lesson plans to fellow teachers all over the world.
How did you get started in STEM?
I went to school for teaching to be an elementary education teacher. And along my journey, it changed a little bit and I ended up getting asked to teach a technology class, which I then kind of morphed into more of a hands on STEM class, incorporating all of those different components. So I started making all of my own activities and lessons and decorations and resources for my classroom. And I found out from somebody else that, Hey, you know you can put these online and share them with other teachers around the world. So I kind of did it just like for a little side thing, let's see what happens, let me see how this goes. And one thing kind of snowballed to another and before I knew it, I had like an actual real business and it was something that made substantial money and it was something that people were coming up to me online saying, wow, like we love your items. Thank you so much. You've been so helpful. So it's sort of like an accidental business.
What passion still drives you in STEM?
What I think is awesome about STEM is that it's really open ended. There's not as much right or wrong, but it's a lot of creative thinking, problem solving, critical thinking. And I think that's what's amazing to see in the classroom or in the workplace. There's almost like no limit and like no end. I see with my own students, they all come up with something totally different if we're doing a hands on problem, if we're solving something. And when you look at the real world, like all of the things around us that are changing, that are being done and built, it all has different components, different letters of STEM involved and we're just like morphing into like all of these amazing inventions and ideas. So I think it's just fascinating because there's like no limit.
What inspired you to pursue STEM?
As a teacher, I think I'm most inspired by my students and their ability to explore and learn. I teach the younger ones. So grades one through four, goes up to about 10 years old and it's just amazing to see their minds working and thinking. And I like to leave everything like pretty open ended so that they could really explore in their own way. And when you see those like light bulb moments, it's just so exciting. So for me, I like to think that one of my students may eventually go on to create something amazing or change something or do something. So for me, I'm trying to just build that mindset now so that they have that later on.
Top tip for a career in STEM
You can test things out and it's okay to change your mind. It's good to see what things are like. And if you say, no, you know what, that's not for me then change. And if you're not sure right away, that's okay. Find something that makes you feel confident and good and makes you excited to do. Just be you, be confident, find something that you truly like. And if you want to go into the STEM field, that is an amazing field to go into, because that's pretty much where our future is heading. There are so many important discoveries and paths through STEM. So that is a great field to get into and explore the different options. Take your time and find something that works best for you.