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Teacher Appreciation Week: Solve for Tomorrow Educators Make Appreciation a Two-Way Street


Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week, Samsung honors the deep connections we’ve forged with committed STEM educators, highlighting two teachers – M. Letitia Hubbard and Kevin Lay – who led their school’s teams to State and National triumphs in Solve for Tomorrow, Samsung’s nationwide STEM competition for middle and high school students. Firm believers in the important roles that the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math) play in all our lives, Hubbard and Lay took time to share with our readers their insights on STEM education, STEM careers, and the impact that participating in Solve for Tomorrow had on their students.

Solve for Tomorrow is Samsung’s signature Citizenship program – showcasing the power of STEM to help shape positive change through projects developed by students to solve pressing issues they see impacting their local communities. At the heart of Solve for Tomorrow are our nation’s STEM educators – dynamic and inspiring teachers like Hubbard and Lay who motivate and lead their students through the long work of creating, developing, implementing, and presenting their Solve for Tomorrow solutions.

Across 13 years of Solve for Tomorrow competitions, we’ve come to know this dedicated community of STEM teachers, hearing and seeing what motivates them, and the challenges they face. Their thirst for lifelong learning and continued professional development prompted us to launch Samsung Teacher Academy for educators who have participated in Solve for Tomorrow. This immersive week-long practicum focuses on the STEM-centric techniques of Problem-Based Learning (PBL), a hands-on way of teaching through problem-solving that has been demonstrated to be particularly effective in STEM disciplines. Teacher Academy also provides participants with training in enhanced professional development skills including networking and communications.

But don’t take our word for it. Read on to learn what Hubbard and Lay have to say…


Name:M. Letitia Hubbard
School:North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Durham, NC)
Subject:11th and 12th Grade Engineering
Years Teaching: 8 years
Ties to Samsung Solve for Tomorrow:2019-2020 Solve for Tomorrow National Winner
What inspired you to become a teacher?

One of my favorite things about teaching is the actual learning process itself! I am intrigued by observing how others learn and helping them to make connections between what they already know and the acquisition of new knowledge. My mother was an elementary school educator so I grew up surrounded by education and gravitated towards positions where I could continue to learn and help others learn. However, the very act of teaching has helped me appreciate the value of a stimulating educational environment even more. Embracing the concept of students and teachers as coexisting learners has helped make my teaching journey a rich and rewarding experience.


What do you love about teaching STEM?

I particularly enjoy teaching STEM because there is always an opportunity to learn something new that influences many of the very basic things we take for granted every day. However, STEM does not exist in a vacuum and more than ever we need students who are comfortable bridging the gaps between disciplines. A big part of helping students successfully navigate across disciplines is teaching them how to grasp new, unfamiliar concepts and cultivate the intellectual curiosity to ask and pursue unanswered questions. As a STEM teacher, it is both challenging and rewarding to help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers to excel in a rapidly changing world.

How did the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow experience impact your career?

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow was an amazing experience for me and my students to work at the cutting-edge of STEM problem-solving. It was very empowering to come together outside of the traditional classroom walls and collaborate with students and faculty across the school in a focused effort to create a solution to a pressing issue. Many of the techniques that I learned in Teacher Academy helped to shape my view of student-centered pedagogy that I use in my classroom on a daily basis.


Name:Kevin Lay
School:Allen D. Nease High School, St. Johns County School District (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL)
Subject:Physics (IB Physics, AP Physics, Honors Physics)
Years Teaching: 19 years
Ties to Samsung Solve for Tomorrow: 2018-2019 Solve for Tomorrow National Winner (Owensville High School, MO) and 2022-2023 Solve for Tomorrow State Finalist (Allen D. Nease High School, FL)
What do you love about teaching STEM?

What I love most about teaching STEM is being a witness to your students discovering that the process is just as important (if not more) as the product. STEM learning and processing puts Problem-Based-Learning at a whole-new level. For this generation of future leaders and problem solvers, STEM-centered learning positions each student with purpose, relevancy, and truly gives a unique and authentic approach to solving a problem.

How did the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow and/or the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Teacher Academy experience impact your career?

Being in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow family has been career changing. Solve for Tomorrow validates the STEM teaching going on in my classroom more than any other experience, assessment, or process that I’ve ever witnessed or been a part of. They have it set up for success from the foundation – to gather the future leaders in your classroom and give them the space to solve a problem that their community is facing. From there, the teacher truly becomes an educational facilitator. Through this experience, I have been humbled, and it affirms hope that future generations genuinely care for their community.


The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Teacher Academy has equipped me with tools that I use in and out of the classroom constantly. Problem-Based-Learning is more than just an extension, it provides the roots of the investigations and labs in my classroom. The networking with professionals in the field is incredible and provides connections that I continue to use to this day. But the friendships that I have made with professionals from around that nation are unparalleled. To be a part of a teaching family that shares an aggressive growth-mindset and that is passionate about the students they serve is something that, to me, provides a “peace that passes all understanding” for teachers and professionals.

What would be your advice to someone contemplating a career in STEM education?

Whether you are a teacher, or a student, if you are contemplating a career in STEM education, know that the possibilities are endless. Each step you take is preparing you for a future in STEM education with some fields that don’t even exist yet! This is why prioritizing a growth mindset, and always wanting to network and learn is SO vital to your future! Be a life-long learner, and use every step, forward or backward, as an opportunity to learn, to grow and ultimately thrive. Be thankful for the wisdom you gain from each experience, share that wisdom, and never stop helping others.

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