The school will be recognized during a formal ceremony on Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. in the gymnasium. In March, Marietta Center for Advanced Academics was named the state’s first STEM-certified school.
Dr. Tiffany Stark, the program’s coordinator, said it’s been a “great honor” to earn this recognition.
“Our teachers and our students work incredibly hard and are working to be cutting edge,” she said. “We’d eventually like to lead the nation in STEM education.”
To her, this honor means that Wheeler is helping lead the state in STEM education and it’s a “step in the right direction” as to where they want to be.
Stark was contacted last spring about applying for the certification by someone from the state and turned it in around April.
“There was a fairly extensive application that we had to complete and submit to the Georgia Department of Education,” she said. “We had to send in an application that documented 16 criteria such as professional development, teacher certification, standardized test scores and curriculum.”
On Sept. 4, an eight-person committee conducted a site visit for about three hours, interviewing staff, parents, and students and sitting in on classrooms.
“They were looking to see evidence of those 16 criteria that they had established,” Stark said. “They asked a lot of questions and it ended with them interviewing myself and (Principal Dr. David Chiprany) and finalizing our data.”
Chiprany said comments from the committee after their visit included praising the magnet school’s foundation and driving force, which is the parent group, the STEM competition that they do with robotics, the health care program, which they called “incredible,” and the number of Advanced Placement classes they offer to students.
“The certification really validates how great the program is and how we provide the students with an amazing experience that the state recognized as one of the best,” he said.
The magnet program at Wheeler, which was established 12 years ago, is home to 425 students in ninth through 12th grade and encompasses about 25 teachers.
“It’s just nice that all the hard work and the drive of the staff and the students has made this program that much more successful,” he added. “It’s definitely raised a level of expectations and teacher certification … this training and push helps our whole school. Everybody is affected by this!”
Stark said the certification is something that hit home with the students as well.
“Students were pumped when they got the news!” she said. “I just heard from several parents that they were going home and telling their parents. It’s really neat to see their excitement. (Students) definitely played a piece in getting ready for the visit. They really took ownership of the visit as well. There was a great sense of accomplishment across the community when we got the news.”