Taking a New Path

Teacher and K12 STEM Education Participant Pursues a PhD to Teach from the Other Side

Ryan Cain no longer teaches at Brooklyn’s P.S. 3 The Bedford Village School. He left behind his after-school robotics club, the 3-D printers he had worked so hard to obtain for his classroom, and the sand table where he taught the impact of flood events on our built environment by using model building structures created by students using 3D printers. “It was a hard departure,” he says. “My principal and co-workers were not happy I was going, and of course I felt some guilt for leaving the students.”

Perhaps your first thought is that Ryan heartlessly abandoned the Bedford Village community to pursue a more lucrative career as a bond trader. Perhaps you assume he is following some impractical or selfish dream (say, sailing solo around the world, for example). If so, think again. Ryan does, indeed, have a dream, but it is both practical and selfless.

He is now a doctoral student at Utah State University, where he won a competitive fellowship in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences. He was inspired to apply, he explains, because of the time he had spent in various programs run by the Center for K-12 STEM Education. (A veteran participant, Ryan had completed a mechatronics- based Research Experience for Teachers, hosted AMPS/CBSI fellows in his classroom, and coached an afterschool robotics team.) “It was great taking everything I learned and applying it to the lessons I taught my own students in my own classroom, but I wanted to have an even bigger impact,” he explains. “All students in all classrooms should be excited about STEM learning. And they all deserve a solid foundation that will prepare them for the future.”

Ryan reasoned that one of the most effective ways he could work towards that goal would be to teach teachers, just as the professors at the NYU School of Engineering were doing with their efforts. “I realized I wanted to achieve what they were achieving,” he says. “They were affecting much more than just one classroom at a time.”