When Jina Bradford finished second grade, she knew she wanted to become a teacher when she grew up. The Colorado native went on to achieve her goal, and has been teaching young children for nearly 16 …
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When Jina Bradford finished second grade, she knew she wanted to become a teacher when she grew up.
The Colorado native went on to achieve her goal, and has been teaching young children for nearly 16 years. Bradford recently received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the White House Office and Science Technology Policy, for her outstanding contributions to her kindergarten students at STEM Lab in Northglenn.
“My second-grade teacher was amazing,” said Bradford. “I knew then I wanted to be a teacher, and I can’t believe how fast the last 16 years have gone.”
Bradford teaches all-day kindergarten and is tasked with educating about 24 young “stemsters” each day. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM-based learning uses a problem-based learning (PBL) approach, which encourages students to develop critical thinking skills and take risks in figuring out how to solve problems, vs. just reading about subjects and rote memory exercises.
“You hear STEM and it’s a scary thing if you don’t know what it means,” said Bradford. “You wonder, `oh my gosh, can we really do this?’ But it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen watching these kids learn this way.”
In PBL, students are given an actual problem to solve, such as what to do in case of a blizzard, or a natural disaster. Students, as young as five years old, come up with their own solutions for the problem. According to Bradford, not giving students the answers automatically is part of the PBL learning.
“I don’t give them answers,” said Bradford. “I will help them problem solve, and my students know that.”
It’s that kind of teaching approach that helped Bradford earn the PAEMST award.
“It’s a joy to step foot into her classroom and watch her work her magic with her students,” said STEM Lab principal Tracy Tellinger. “Her work around bringing engineering to the classroom, getting students to develop a STEM identity and help them become science thinkers is incredible. She’s a leader within our building, she’s passionate about what she does, and we are blessed to have such a master teacher.”
Bradford recently traveled to Washington D.C. to receive her award, where she received a citation signed by President Trump and a $10,000 award from the NSF. Bradford will use the money for activities and classroom supplies.
Bradford credits her family, fellow teachers, school administrators and staff members for helping her become the award-winning teacher she is today.
“The teacher that I am now would not be possible without the amazing staff that I have gotten the chance to work with,” said Bradford. “I am surrounded by the best teachers I have ever seen, with all of them coming together as one to support these kids.”
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