I have been really fortunate in my years as the Program Director at Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy where many of our business partners are active participants in our STEM magnet. Partners such as NASA-Langley Research Center, Ft. Eustis, Alcoa-Howmet, and the FAA do a multitude of things from being guest speakers to providing on-site field trips. However, I’ve learned that one of the biggest impacts to improving and sustaining positive change in our program is through technical panels.
I define a technical panel as a group of experts (and possibly parents) that help schools continue to gain key information from professionals who work in the STEM fields. Technical panels provide insight to the staff and students so that they have an updated blueprint of the skill sets and requirements to get hired by the region’s employers.
A Value Proposition
To find a way to recruit business and community leaders to consider joining the technical panel, develop a value proposition that reflects existing work and practices and attracts their involvement.
Our strategy showcases the highlights of the program that may interest busy executives, in hopes of motivating them to come see it in action. We know that once they visit the school, many will connect with the mission on a personal level and make the time to help us.
Listed below are seven steps to organizing technical panels, which is the first step into implementing them on a regular basis.
- Remember the road to excellence remains lonely and long.
- Enlist the support of personnel who have the energy and time to make difference.
- Put together a diverse team that can make an immediate impact.
- Look in your own back yard before crossing the street.
- Keep moving on! Even when you would like to stop and call it quits.
- Help others reach their fullest potential.
- Never settle for being average.
Once you have your panel lined up with the right personnel, there are 9 principles to guide you through its development.
- Enlist the support of those with the energy and time to make a difference. If panel members struggle to get to meetings, it becomes a moot point to have them on the team. Remember the purpose of building for the future, not to have everyone on the team for namesake alone (although we could easily imagine exceptions to this rule). Request the panel to help plan and develop field trips and career days.
- Put together a diverse team that can make an immediate impact. Have the panel represent various occupations and backgrounds. An ethnic and gender balance helps. Females and minorities serving on the panel will become a huge asset to your program and become role models for the student body.
- Look in your own back yard before crossing the street. Check with teachers and staff members to determine the parents and community members that may consider such a role. Asking for help becomes easier the more you do it.
- Keep moving on! Be resilient! Use the momentum to accelerate change. Equally important, celebrate success stories with the panel and staff and gently remind the team that great organizations continuously transform themselves to the next level. Monitor the timing of the technical panel meetings. Don’t just meet to meet! Such a busy world requires thoughtful use of time. Determine the best weekday and hour and frequency (biannual, quarterly, etc.) for the group. Develop a solid agenda that revolves around the issues of bringing the world to the fingertips of the students. Send the agenda out to the committee a week or so in advance and ask for suggestions.
- Help others reach their fullest potential. Don’t miss the opportunity to involve and inspire some members of the team who have been standing in the wings. Find opportunities to engage everyone. STEM can inspire everyone. Some team members are easily overlooked in the fast-paced transformation of the school. When an opportunity comes to improve staff development, empower these folks. When improvements are made across the board with all professionals, the expectations are raised to a new level!
- Never settle for being average. When it comes to our students in public schools, the culture is no longer accepting of average teachers, an average curriculum, and average resources. We all want the best for our children. Nobody wants average.
- Remember the reason for the technical panel. Experts on the panel will not necessarily see the day-to-day success stories that an administrator or teacher would see. Bring students to the panel so members can see and hear some of the success stories. Having students there speaks volumes for the initiatives, reminding everyone of the reason they volunteer to help.
- A committee may often set limitations. If you see the glass half empty, then you will never see the potential in the product. If blinded by what we cannot do, the impossible will never become reachable and obtainable. Leave the door open for innovation, bold ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.
- Show your appreciation to the committee. Remember these busy corporate and civic leaders give up their time coming to these meetings and will have to get caught up on career and family time once the meeting concludes. Show the school’s appreciation at every opportunity. Let them know you are humbled by their work. Send a letter of thanks and a certificate of appreciation. Invite them to special events at the school. Have the school superintendent express appreciation, if possible by contacting the panel member’s corporate leadership to express thanks for the contribution of talent.
By doing these simple steps on a regular basis, it will ensure the longevity of the panels where constant improvement in the teaching and learning of worldly applications will be seen on a daily basis.