A professional career in education offers many pathways. Some educators become teachers and help to shape young minds, others become principals to help nurture and organize the staff and faculty who support academic excellence, and others may contribute to education in some other unique way. Whatever the role you choose to take, the innovative quality you bring to the table is what makes all the difference.Dr. Reid Whitaker, founder of Accelerate Learning and STEMscopes, has taken every one of those paths at some time in his career as an edupreneur. He joined the ranks of innovative thought leaders in education from a young age. He began his journey through Teach for America upon graduation from University of Texas, where he majored in Communication Studies. He taught at the Port Houston Elementary school for three years through the program, and had his first taste of the science classroom environment as a 5th grade teacher.
“I hated science growing up. I always associated it with taking notes,” he commented about his initial thoughts going into the classroom. His attitude soon changed when he began to involve students with more science experiments and watched them become more engaged. His principal soon took notice of his ability to reach the students in his classroom and promoted him to work as the science lab teacher.
“At first I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t sure if I could handle teaching lab to all of those students,” he said. He again excelled, which lead to his eventual promotion to principal at the age of 27, the youngest individual ever to do so in his district.
In 2006, Reid joined Rice University in the Rice Elementary Model Science Lab (REMSL), where he helped respond to the need for a comprehensive, standards-aligned, and inquiry-based science curriculum. While working with teachers in the program, he began to develop TAKScopes, which offered a unique hands-on learning experience for each science standard. The curriculum was fully digital and strictly aligned to science standards. By 2010, when he returned to Rice University to assist with the project again, Reid took TAKScopes to the next level and STEMscopes was born.
STEMscopes has grown a lot since its inception. After becoming the most commonly used curriculum in Texas, it grew nationally and now has hopes of penetrating an international market.
“I would like to see our curriculum being used on an international level to help provide resources and proper education that [everyone] deserves,” Reid said.
What is life like for Dr. Whitaker outside of his work with STEMscopes? You can take a course with him at Rice University, where he works as Executive Director and Professor in the Digital Learning and Scholarship department. When he is not working on the Rice campus, he enjoys reading (not surprising for an educator!), swimming, and attending the theater.