The National Science Teachers Association recently awarded the Northrup Grumman Foundation Excellence in Engineering Education Award to Morristown High School science teacher Mariel Kolker. The award recognizes excellence in the field of engineering education.
Ms. Kolker has been recognized nationally for her leadership in addressing the disparity in the number of females enrolling in STEM studies or careers. In an effort to study and address this issue, she instituted an all-girls engineering class at MHS and established a Girls in STEM club and a Girls who Code club at MHS. She has presented her research on the gender gap in STEM at Rutgers University and been a keynote speaker on the subject at numerous regional and national conferences.
An innovative physics and engineering teacher, Ms. Kolker partnered with researchers in the Soft Materials lab at Stevens Institute of Technology for 4-years to develop one of the nation’s only Nanoscale Science and Engineering courses for high school students in the Country.
Kolker believes the skills and habits learned through engineering education, specifically the engineering design process, can be applied to any problem or challenge in life. “The engineering design process defines the steps in developing a solution to a problem and provides a critical thinking mindset that can be applied to any challenge,” she explained. “Engineering, therefore, is not just for science, technology, engineering, and math courses; it applies to every course, every challenge life brings. I am an advocate for engineering education for precisely this reason. I strive to enable students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, whether they go on to become engineers or not.”
Ms. Kolker holds a BA in Finance from Fordham University and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers. She became a teacher in 2000 following a 13-year career as a financial analyst and operating supervisor in the energy industry. She currently is pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Massachusetts. Her dissertation will focus on educating teachers to help understand and combat the gender gap in engineering and coding professions.
“Ms. Kolker has been a champion for integrating engineering education at the high school level and supporting under-represented groups in STEM education,” said Brian Young, Morristown High School Supervisor of Instruction and Curriculum. “She continues to promote STEM education, engineering and gender equality in science throughout our District as well as on the national stage. We are extremely grateful to have Ms. Kolker working and inspiring our students here in the Morris School District.”
The NSTA Grumman Foundation Excellence in Engineering Education Award includes $5,000 for classroom materials and a $3,000 prize.