STEM Education Leader Calvin Mackie Asks America’s Math Teachers To Restore Hope To Their Students

Dr. Calvin Mackie

Speaking at Teacher’s Convention, Dr. Mackie Makes Inspirational Appeal  

NEW ORLEANS – In a stirring speech to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Dr. Calvin Mackie called on the nation, and particularly its educators, to bring hope back into the lives of children, families and communities.

“We have to bring back hope,” Dr. Mackie said, acknowledging the pain and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He asserted that students in classrooms across the country, and especially in under-resourced communities, must see their teachers expressing hope so they can feel it and use it as a motivating force.

“This whole place, this whole world called America is based on (those) four letters. And those letters spell out the word hope,” Dr. Mackie said. “Hope is the only thing that got us where we are today, and hope is the only thing that’s going to take us to where we need to go. This thing called hope is real. Hope is the thing that caused (Rosa Parks) to sit down and caused an entire nation and stand up.”

In our world today, said Dr. Mackie, no one wants to take responsibility for their actions and they place blame on everyone else, except themselves. “And every problem in this society shows up at the schoolhouse door and people expect you (teachers) to deal with it,” he said. “I’m not one of those people. God bless you. And I want you to know that I’m an educator. And (teaching) is hard. This pandemic is hard, just existing in it.”

In 2013, Dr. Mackie launched STEM NOLA to increase science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) awareness among parents and the community, while providing a variety of programs that allow students in grades K – 12 to have fun as they learn about STEM. It began when Dr. Mackie taught STEM skills to his children from his garage on Saturday mornings, and neighborhood kids poured in to join them.

Dr. Mackie told the teachers how his neighborhood-based STEM programs were started. “My son came home from school in the third grade, and said, ‘Daddy, I don’t like science anymore.’ I said, ‘boy, what you talking about? When your mother was playing that classical music and reading to her belly (before he was born). I used to whisper Newton’s laws of motion to you.’ That’s the truth. That’s the sad part about it.

“He said, ‘Daddy, my teacher just talked to the board. So, I don’t, I don’t like science anymore. I said, ‘Oh no we have to change that,’ Dr. Mackie said, adding that he began buying kits from Amazon and started doing science experiments with his sons in the garage on weekends. Soon, there were more than 20 neighborhood kids coming to garage each weekend to do STEM projects and STEM NOLA was born, a non-profit that engaged churches, schools and community centers to bring STEM education into low-income, under-resourced communities.

Dr. Mackie. who holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Morehouse College, as well as a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech, is a former tenured engineering professor at Tulane University. Last year, Dr. Mackie launched STEM Global Action, a campaign and network of affiliates that pursues STEM education for children, parents and communities. Over the years, his initiatives have impacted more than 100,000 students, 20,000 families and 5,000 schools across the U.S., and in five countries.

Dr. Mackie told the teachers that it is critical that they get to know their students and the communities they come from, especially when teaching children from urban neighborhoods. “I talk to teachers all the time,” he said. “I tell teachers you can’t teach what you do not know. I’m not talking about whether or not, you know, your math…I’m talking about whether or not, you know, this kid sitting in front, you. Do you know what make him tick? Do you know what makes her upset? Do you know what gets her going? Do you know what they dealing with?”

H recalled a conversation with administrators from LSU. “They said, ‘Calvin, we have a problem with Black males achieving, what should we do?’ I said, ‘You don’t have a problem with Black males achieving. You got a problem with understanding what you are successful at. They said, ‘What are we successful at?’ I said, ‘Over there in the athletic department, you know how to keep those boys eligible (to play varsity sports). Do for the boys who are not playing sports, what you doing for the boys playing sports.”

Further, Dr. Mackie noted that children across the country play football, basketball and soccer in youth leagues every Saturday morning. “My vision is to have a million kids doing STEM in every city – rural and urban communities – across this country so that we don’t have to go to other countries and Bill Gates doesn’t have to go to Congress and fight for visas to bring foreign nationals over here to do the work that our children are not capable of because we have not properly supported them.”

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