Science teachers are an exceptional group of professionals who selflessly dedicate themselves to creating the next generation of leaders. Leonette Ehlenbeck is an even rarer gem who goes above and beyond what is asked of her – she uses her STEM classroom as a platform to empower her students and encourage them to be community leaders like herself.
Leonette in Her Classroom
Leonette is passionate about teaching her students to be confident, creative problem solvers. She does this by using her STEM classroom as space for creative thinking. Before the pandemic her classroom modeled as a Makerspace : a room with a large number of resources where students can come to explore new concepts, delve into their interests, and create their own projects. It was equipped with Green Screen, computers, blocks, craft supplies and numerous other tools that allowed her students to come up with their own goals or questions, and Leonette guided them on how to execute their plans.
She is determined to retain this level of engagement in the new era of online/hybrid teaching, because there is no force great enough to stop Leonette from teaching science. Creating her own CDC-approved classroom layouts with homemade social distancing materials and bringing in EduSmart Science to provide interactive lessons and labs, she has allowed students to engage in STEM with the same vigor as they did before. Through Leonette’s guidance all her students gained an animated interest in engineering, science, and problem solving. The impact of her work is more than just an increase in her students’ ability to retain critical information, but her students also walk away knowing that they are capable, intelligent individuals.
Her classroom philosophy can be boiled down to, “believing in your students 100%, and letting your students know that you do.” In her 43 years of teaching, Leonette has helped hundreds of students realize their true potential by giving them the space to explore and supporting them through their unique journeys.
Leonette in Her Community
Like any leader, Leonette’s impact goes beyond her classroom. She joined Challenger K8: School of Science & Mathematics just as it was opening 16 years ago, and welcomed the opportunity to help build its community from scratch. She is one of the leading champions for ensuring continual flow of funds for projects that will not only benefit her school, but the community as a whole. A prime example of her work is the Outdoor Classroom, which the students lovingly call “The Swamp.” Leonette raised over $25,000 to clean up and repurpose an adjacent plot as an educational garden.
Some of The Swamp’s many features include a fitness trail, a math patio to reinforce classroom lessons, and two covered canopies with tables for learning, resting, or eating. She has even began a Junior Audubon chapter last year– a team that helps ensure the gardens are filled with native Florida plants. Though the Junior Audubon club started with gusto, they currently have their plans on hold due to COVID. The Swamp has become so vibrant that indigenous Kestels (falcons) enjoy nesting there. Some of these efforts have also helped landscape Challenger’s front office – where the community’s combined efforts have created a native plant butterfly garden. The native plants in front of the office and the native butterfly area are the beginning of a wonderful learning experience for the students, staff, and community. Leonette’s hard work resulted in this gift to the community that generations are going to enjoy.
Leonette & EduSmart
Dr. Arlene Fonda Korr says the following about Leonette: "Serving as a Florida representative for instructional technology for science resources, I have had the great fortune to work with Ms. Leonette Ehlenbeck for over 15 years. During this time, I have had numerous opportunities to witness the true professionalism she brings to her position as the STEM Lab teacher for Challenger K-8 Center in Hernando County. Ms. Ehlenbeck always considers how to incorporate creative learning opportunities to her students. Her passion for teaching is not just limited to the students in her STEM Labs. She constantly shares these resources with her colleagues in order to make their science instruction most meaningful and engaging. Thank you for all that you do to further science education, Ms. Ehlenbeck!"
EduSmart has helped Leonette and teachers like her continue doing what they do best by supporting them with resources they need to elevate their classroom experience – let it be individualized science education for each student, dynamic reporting, or instruction modules and readers in multiple languages. Leonette has found EduSmart a quality resource and great support in her classroom because, “it truly feels like EduSmart wants to be the best. They take suggestions and continue to improve. They actually listen to the teachers.”
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