MORRISBURG, Ontario – Blair Fitzsimons has a passion for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). For 15 years, Fitzsimons has unlocked the potential of his students from Kindergarten to Grade 7 and introduced them into the world of science and technology.
For his efforts in STEM, the St. Mary-St. Cecilia Catholic School teacher has been recognized with a Certificate of Achievement as a part of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM.
“It was a tremendous honour and kind of beyond belief,” Fitzsimons told Seaway News. “I’m just really honoured that STEM is being recognized. It is a recognition that STEM can change the lives of kids by unlocking their potential.
Over the course of his career, Fitzsimons has used the resources he has had available to effectively teach STEM to his students. As an example of his dedication, when his school couldn’t provide robots for students to work with, he and his colleagues would act as living robots and navigate a maze based on his students commands. Fitzsimons has brought in over $70,000 in grants for STEM learning.
Simple resources such as LEGO blocks have been used by Fitzsimons to develop teaching strategies, and he has developed a website to share these techniques with other students and teachers called One Brick at a Time.
His work with LEGOs lead his FIRST LEGO team to actually get a patent for an idea the students developed. His students developed an an edible alternative to plastic hay-bale twine, solving a pollution problem. His team ranked in the top 20 world wide in the FIRST LEGO competition and they hold a patent with the U.S. patent office.
Fitzsimons explained that his teaching strategy focused on student potential and learning with them.
“I really think it is the belief that teaching kids what is possible is what is important in STEM,” he said. “There needs to be a willingness to learn along side your student and a willingness to face messy problems.”
For Fitzsimons, students realizing their potential is the most satisfying thing about being a teacher.
“For me the most satisfying thing is when a child sees the potential in themselves that you saw all along,” he said. “It is about helping them to shatter the barriers in their mind.”