Baldwin said, “It was one of the hardest decisions I made to move positions, but it helped renew my passion for teaching.”
Baldwin’s passion for teaching is evident based on her recent accolades. She was South Carolina STEM Educator of the Year in 2021. This year she was recognized nationally as the Robert and Patricia Kern Teacher of the Year by Project Lead the Way.
She readily acknowledges she was the kid wanting to know the why to everything. She also liked finding different ways to solve a problem. “The journey was as important to me as the solution,” said Baldwin. “I think that is why I am so passionate about teaching STEM.”
Baldwin believes STEM allows every student to find something they are good at and excel. “I have watched students realize that they have the skills to be a computer programmer or a mechanic,” said Baldwin. “Many of these students find their safe place or comfort zone in my classroom, because in my room you can be yourself. My STEM classroom is the place to explore and find your why.”
As a Gateway to Technology (GTT) teacher, Baldwin exposes students to STEM concepts and careers. She said STEM careers are some of the fastest growing in the Charleston metro region and will be some of the main jobs available during her students’ lifetime.
“Through our hands-on lessons and career explorations, I hope that students gain the knowledge that allows them to explore their areas of interest and unlock their strengths,” said Baldwin.
The sixth grade GTT curriculum gets students interested in STEM concepts such as engineering, the design process, and coding. Students explore coding through CS First Music and Sound to create music videos. The seventh grade curriculum includes 3D modeling and production, focuses on design for production, and students complete projects such as making foot orthosis for students with Cerebral Palsy, design puzzle cubes modified for special needs, and design solutions to their own problems. Careers such as auto and plane manufacturing are explored.
In the eighth grade, GTT students learn to create and program robots, build mechanical gears, and about the medical and forensic field in real-world scenarios. “Students are challenged to create a build without a defined solution or instructions,” said Baldwin.
When Baldwin became a GTT teacher in 2013, she was the only female GTT teacher in her district. Most of the other teachers had an industrial technology or business background. Baldwin believes boys are pushed toward STEM more often than females. She observed that boys tended to lean toward robotics and building. Baldwin said, “I often heard girls say that they did not like build activities because the boys would take over.” She started making an effort to bring more females into her STEM classes. “My all girls robotics teams and Girl Power camp helped the young ladies in the community feel more confident in their STEM abilities,” she said.
Baldwin encourages students interested in the field of education to get in the classroom and experience everything they can. “My CSU experience prepared me for my career better than many of my colleagues,” she said. “CSU pushed us to get out in the classroom, and that classroom exposure helped so much. When I was in college, I was encouraged to become a substitute teacher during off months and to volunteer in classrooms even when not required. I was a sub and that helped me determine I looked too young to teach high school. I worked as an adult support one semester which helped me get experience working with special needs students. I taught first grade Sunday school at my church which helped me begin to learn about planning and meeting the needs of others.”
Baldwin emphasizes that things have changed in the classroom over her 22-year career. “The immersion of technology in our daily lives has changed the way the world views everything,” she said. She encourages those who want to support educators to get in the classroom. She advises signing up to be a substitute teacher (walk a day in their shoes), volunteering in a school (there are so many opportunities), or just taking the time to bring lunch/breakfast to a school and sit and talk with teachers. She said, “Taking time to see how different school is will help the public find ways to help and support.”
One unique experience Baldwin had was teaching with her mother, Janice Wolfe, for the first 19 years of her career at Oakbrook Middle. Wolfe graduated from CSU in 1998. Baldwin said, “This was one of the best experiences of my life. Sadly, her mother died of lung cancer in April.
Baldwin moved to East Edisto Middle School for the 2022-23 academic year to launch the GTT program at DD2’s newest middle school.
Baldwin is married to Carter Baldwin, a 1999 CSU alum. They met while at CSU, reconnected in 2005, and were married in 2007. They have an 11-year-old son, Ethan, who is active in Boy Scouts. They live in Summerville and have a rescue dog, Hank. The Baldwins organize fundraiser efforts each year for the March of Dimes and are avid supporters of the Medical University of South Carolina’s NNICU.