Teacher Bio - Lewis McKenzie is the recipient of the Educating Excellence Award for February 2014. McKenzie, who chairs the Mathematics Department at Ruskin High School in Kansas City, Missouri, was nominated by colleague Robert Nellis and student Cindy Menjivar.
One of the ways McKenzie has created excitement for STEM learning opportunities in his school is by reviving the lapsed Robotics Club. "The rebirth of the Robotics Club has been at Lewis' direction," explains Nellis. "A program that was on the skids has become a major capstone in the academic world here. Lewis was highly instrumental in helping the school earn the Academy of Engineering designation. While not a specific classroom activity, this reflects how important Lewis believes STEM education is in the development of academic success."
To help students make connections between classroom instruction and what's happening in the world around them, McKenzie designs engaging, interactive assignments that demonstrate how STEM studies impact daily life. "Mr. McKenzie constantly reminds his students how important (STEM) fields are in the real world," says Menjivar. "He gives examples of how these fields affect people every day."
In addition to his regular teaching responsibilities, McKenzie uses his own time to arrange for industry professionals to visit his classroom and provide shadow opportunities for students. "Rarely does this end prior to 5:00 p.m. daily, and rarely is there a Saturday that Lewis is not occupied with a class or school function related to his classes," says Nellis. McKenzie also makes himself available before, during and after school for those students needing extra one-on-one attention. "Mr. McKenzie is dedicated to having all his students succeed...and no matter how difficult any one student can be, he never gives up on them," adds Menjivar.
While McKenzie is recognized for creating interest in STEM careers through his classroom instruction and the Robotics Club, he also encourages students to challenge themselves through creative problem solving.
According to Nellis: "Lewis encourages students to achieve and evaluate their results, and determine solutions to problem areas. His innate ability to motivate is demonstrated by the growth in Project Lead the Way he has fostered. Lewis models how to accomplish, evaluate and revise, while building student success."