News from the Aurora University community

AU’s STEM Partnership School isn’t just for kids

Posted by on September 6, 2016

STEMstudentThere’s a great deal of learning going on at the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University — and it’s not confined to the third- through eighth-graders who attend classes there.

A number of AU students — graduates and undergraduates alike — actually work at the school, gaining valuable experience in addition to a paycheck.

Jennifer Bentley, for example, an elementary education major who graduated in May 2016, became involved with the STEM Partnership School while doing research as part of an honors class. The Aurora native ended up working at the school for a semester and later did her student teaching there. In all she spent a year and a half at the school, an experience that opened her eyes to the importance of STEM education.

“My cooperating teacher, Elizabeth Kaleta, was with me at all times,” she said. “Together we developed the curriculum for mathematics and science, and I taught the classes. She gave me a lot of freedom, which was wonderful. Not all teachers have that much faith in their student teachers.”

Bentley is beginning her professional career this fall teaching fourth grade at Bardwell Elementary School in Aurora — and she doesn’t intend to forget what she learned during her time at the STEM Partnership School. “Too often science gets pushed aside,” she said. “I’m going to make sure that is part of my classes every day. Science is not something that can be taught in isolation; it can be integrated into everything we teach.”

The STEM school provides experiences for students pursuing a variety degrees. Jessie Fruland graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in May and now works as a neonatal intensive care nurse at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. She began work at the STEM Partnership School as a nurse’s aid during her junior year, spending one day a week administering to students’ minor health needs and tending to their occasional cuts and scrapes.

“I worked a total of 14 hours during each two-week pay period, which was a perfect fit with my school schedule,” she said. “I really like kids, too, so it was a good fit for me personally.”

Fruland credits her work at the STEM Partnership School for helping refine her communication skills. “I became friends with a lot of the STEM school kids, which helped me when I worked with adult acute-care patients in hospitals. I found it easier to assess the older patients and to talk to them because of my STEM school experience.”

She recommends a job at the STEM Partnership School to nursing majors who are looking for “on-the-job” experience and to expand their networks.

“Working here gives AU students a great perspective on the future,” said Arin Carter, director of the STEM Partnership School. “They are often amazed at what our students are capable of and surprised by how much they enjoy working with them. The children are open and curious, and that’s good for our student workers to see, too.”

Master’s student Cedric Bruce-Kotey would agree.

A Londoner who completed his bachelor’s degree in Ohio on a soccer scholarship, Bruce-Kotey is now at AU working on a master’s degree in digital marketing and analysis. As an international student he is only able to work on campus, so when a job as a student supervisor at the STEM Partnership School came open, he took it, little suspecting that the children he played soccer with at lunch and loaded on buses home at the end of the day would teach him an enduring lesson.

“Kids ask a lot of questions about everything imaginable,” he said. “I recently took a course on entrepreneurialism that emphasized the importance of asking questions. I realized that the STEM school kids sort of model that entrepreneurial behavior. They really showed me the power of asking questions.”

The STEM Partnership School employs as many as 20 student supervisors per semester in addition to nurse’s aides and clinical students. The school also offers opportunities for AU students to become involved in after-school projects, such as the school’s coding and robotics clubs. AU students wanting more information about employment opportunities at the school should visit