An energetic young educator, Shelly Waller began her teaching career at a diverse Title I school in Fredericksburg, Virginia where more than 60% of students come from economically disadvantaged households. Awarded “New Teacher of the Year” in her first year at Salem Elementary school, Shelly spent three years teaching third and fourth grade before moving to an instructional technology resource teacher position that serves multiple elementary schools within Spotsylvania County. In this role, Shelly coaches teachers in two Fredericksburg elementary schools on integrating new technologies into the classroom to enhance the student experience.  

For the 2021/21 school year, Waller is serving as Learning Undefeated’s STEM Ambassadorcollaborating with the organization’s educators to create and curate resources to support STEM educators across the nation in implementing high quality STEM learning for all students. Waller firmly believes in the importance of diversity in STEM. “It is essential that teachers understand what it means to be culturally competent to effectively inspire students from underrepresented populations to become more involved in STEM fields,” she said. In the classroom, she spends extra time getting to know each student’s cultural background, academic background, knowledge, and interests to create a safe and welcoming classroom environment that promotes inquiry and student choice. 

Throughout the 2021/22 school year, Waller will collaborate with Learning Undefeated to create new STEM programs specifically for elementary students and receive several, weeklong visits from Learning Undefeated’s Drop Anywhere Lab, a custom outfitted STEM learning space built from a modified shipping container, and Explorer Lab, a Mars-themed engineering laboratory. She’s also excited about using Contour, Learning Undefeated’s custom-built AR sandbox to help students understand about topography, rainwater runoff and watersheds. 

These mobile laboratories will be helping Waller’s students develop their critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills as they engage in inquiry and work together to solve a problem or complete a task. Said Waller, “STEM instruction helps students become informed decisionmakers and promotes students’ creativity. When students engage in STEM education, they are developing the skills necessary for careers and secondary education.”