Georgia’s top educator paid a visit to Dallas Tuesday and dropped off a hard-earned memento to Paulding County High School.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods unfurled the banner designating the school and its Academy of Science, Research and Medicine magnet program as the 11th Georgia high school to earn Georgia Department of Education STEM certification for its course offerings and curriculum.

STEM is a commonly used acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Principal Craig Wilcox, District Science Curriculum Coordinator Sarah Graham and lead teacher Marc Pedersen were among those receiving the certification for the program, which enrolls 60 students annually.

Wilcox told audience members, including Academy students and parents and county school board members, the five-year-old program will prepare students for any college in the U.S.

“Put a great teacher with great kids, you get great results,” he said. “Mr. Pedersen, you can hold this up.”

Woods said he wanted to personally deliver the banner announcing Paulding County High’s certification because it was “important” to highlight positive events in Georgia public schools.

“Hopefully, this will help to inspire schools in other parts of the state,” Woods said.

He noted science, technology, engineering and math will prepare students for many of the “jobs of the future” in Georgia.

“One of the things we look at is how to unlock the innovative parts of the brain,” Woods said, in reference to STEM education.

Pedersen, who learned about the designation in April, said it was “something to be proud of.”

“It means we’re doing an excellent job of integrating science and math into the curriculum,” he said.

Pedersen said the magnet program emphasizes project-based learning. The teaching method allows students to investigate real-world problems to better understand a subject, such as science.

The designation makes Paulding County High the state education department’s second STEM-designated high school in West Georgia and 58th school at any level. Lithia Springs High School in Douglas County was given its certification in 2016.

Requirements for certification are varied. Among them are a program offering a pathway of STEM classes for students; continuing education in the content areas for teachers; certification that students enter competitions such as science fairs, and more.

Other STEM-certified high schools include Wheeler and Kennesaw Mountain high schools in Cobb County; Forsyth Central High School; Peachtree Ridge and Lanier high schools and Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology in Gwinnett; Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology; Newton College and Career Academy in Newton County; and Jenkins High in Savannah.

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