Jefferson Award winner gets children pumped up about STEAM
Janice Kowalczyk's journey to becoming a 2018 Jefferson Award winner began with a passion she found in high school.
"I volunteered to do tutoring and I loved it so much. That influenced me to become an educator," Kowalczyk said.
She started with teaching science in the early 1970s, having no idea that would just be the tip of the iceberg.
"I never planned it, I never saw it, and until this award, I never really looked back," Kowalczyk said.
She was too busy looking toward the future.
"I grew up at a time where math and science were really important because we were trying to put a man on the moon," she said. "Now science and technology are really important because it's all around us, and if you're not part of it you're going to be left out and left behind."
Kowalczyk's vision led her to become heavily involved with what's known as STEAM, an educational approach introducing kids to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
She was instrumental in bringing innovations from MIT researchers into Rhode Island classrooms, and she was one of the founders of what's now known as Rhode Island Students of the Future, a nonprofit that engages kids with robotics. She's served as its volunteer director for 17 years.
"I've given a lot of time, but that's time I chose to give because it was fun," Kowalczyk said.
Now she helps implement a statewide computer science initiative and runs workshops for teachers out of the Copernicus STEAM Learning Lab located at All Saints STEAM Academy in Middletown.