Meet Takeisha Turner, STEAM Academy 2020 Instructor and Role Model

 

Takeisha Turner has always had a mind for science. Having grown up on a steady diet of Bill Nye the Science Guy and MythBusters, Takeisha loved watching stuff blow up and solving real-world problems. So, it’s fitting that, as an adult, Takeisha is helping children discover their own love of science—as an instructor for STEAM Academy 2020, a free, first-of-its-kind online program that launched this week. The camp is hosted by the T.D. Jakes Foundation in conjunction with the Dallas Mayor’s Office, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Dallas Regional Chamber.

For five weeks this summer, thousands of students from all over the world will watch short videos of Takeisha teaching them about science. The activities are fun and engaging, built around storytelling. In one app, the kids will have to code an entire soccer stadium complete with a ball, two separate teams (wearing national flags of their choice), and the sound of a crowd cheering when the ball is tapped. The kids can modify the code to make any goofy sounds they like.

“Hopefully, with these videos, I’ll inspire more girls to enter these male-dominated positions like coding,” Takeisha said. “I used to think this was too hard. Actually, it’s not that hard at all to learn.”

As an account manager for Accelerate Learning, the provider of STEMscopes, the award-winning STEM curriculum at the heart of STEAM Academy 2020, Takeisha typically works with teachers and administrators to bolster their science knowledge. Her geographic region encompasses districts in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, many of which are small, rural Title 1 schools, including several located on Native American Reservations.

Even though Takeisha grew up in a household of science and math whizzes—her father is an accountant, her brother is a doctor and her mother is an academic with a background in biology—she knows that far too few women of color have similar role models. She loves empowering teachers who may not have a rigorous background in science—and is especially looking forward to working with students this summer to show them all the possibilities.

According to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, black students who have at least one black teacher by third grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college—and those who have two teachers are 32% more likely to make it to college.

“I had my first black teacher in college, and I come from an academic family,” she said. “When you think about something like coding, you don’t think about women and you don’t think about women of color. I’m super excited to be part of a program that’s going to help change that perception.”

While Takeisha’s love of science has been constant, she has toyed with many different careers, from psychology to accounting to veterinarian medicine. Looking ahead, she would like to work in a field where she can interact with children.

“I would like to work with kids as a therapist,” Takeisha said. “One thing’s for certain: It will be in science. I don’t think I can be happy in something that doesn’t involve science—science that is applicable and requires face-to-face interactions.”

 

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