MSI names inaugural executive director
by Lucas Vance Staff Writer
WINNSBORO — The Midlands S.T.E.M. Institute board of directors has chosen Marie Milam as the public charter school’s first executive director.
MSI is scheduled to open up in the fall of 2014. Milam, a retired public school educator with more than 30 years experience in both South Carolina and North Carolina, was the unanimous choice of the board after conducting a regional search.
She grew up in the Upstate and the Low Country. She has worked in Greenville County, Horry County, Greenwood County and Fairfield County. Kevin Thomas, chairman of MSI’s board of directors, made the announcement.
“Marie brings a wealth of knowledge as an educator, a curricular leader, and an administrator to this new position,” he said. “As an active participant throughout the process of bringing a public charter school to our community, she has proven herself more than capable of launching this new enterprise and leading it into the future. The board and I are very excited about the school community we are building and believe we have chosen the right person to lead it.”
Milam graduated from Furman University with a bachelor’s degree in education and received her master’s degree in reading from Clemson. She also obtained an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from the University of South Carolina, and is currently working on her Ph.D at Clemson.
Milam considers herself a lifetime educator with over 30 years in teaching. After previously serving on the board at the MSI, Milam believes it is a natural transition making the step to executive director.
“It suits me well because my background is in education,” she noted. “Being an educator has made for a smooth transition.”
Milam began her career in education teaching elementary school in the Greenville County School District. A former Teacher of the Year in the Horry County School District, she also has served on the district office curriculum team in the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) School District and as the literacy coordinator for Laurens County School District 55. She is also the former curriculum and instruction coordinator for Greenwood County and a former deputy superintendent.
Milam is grateful for the opportunity to be MIS’s first executive director.
“Helping children learn is my greatest passion,” she said. “Being involved in this community’s effort to create a new environment that stimulates learning through technology and help young people achieve great things has to be one of the greatest highlights in my career. I can’t wait to bring teachers and students together in this model and see what they will do together. I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity to be a part of it.”
MSI will run a “SWIS” design — school within a school — with 18 students in each class and 27 students per grade. It is a traditional grade structure with a multi-age facet.
“The concepts and the standards are the same,” Milam noted. “But the complexity that the particular concept is taught increases and teachers are always teaching up.”
MSI will emphasize a “hands on approach” to learning, where students will learn by doing as opposed to learning through lecture. Children will learn by doing verses learning through a teacher’s lecture.
“STEM curriculum lends itself to content integration,” Milam explained. “We use a reverse approach. Instead of reading about force and motion, students will actually do experiments on force and motion and then go back and read about what they’ve done.”
An additional component to the MSI curriculum is teaching student healthy initiatives. Fairfield County ranks third out of 46 counties in diabetes, obesity and asthma. Milam believes a student’s health is directly correlated to their educational performance.
“This part of the curriculum will focus on teaching children to enjoy a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “What a person eats directly affects the ability to perform and we also know that a physically healthy body directly correlates to brain activity and the ability to learn well. It is hard to learn if a student is hungry or if a student eats a lot of sugar and crashes halfway through the day.”
MSI will incorporate healthy initiatives through fitness programs to improve cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Students will also learn about the composition of food, and how much fat content there is and how that content affects a body’s system and overall health.
Milam believes that the STEM curriculum offered at MSI will help prepare students for the jobs of the future.
“We are looking at what employers need and where the jobs of the future are,” she stated. “Jobs of the future are in the STEM related fields and we have noticed that the number of people coming into the county for high skilled jobs are predominately from outside the county. We want to grow Fairfield County. We want our children to grow up in Fairfield County, to love Fairfield County and to stay in Fairfield County.”
In its first year, MSI will be kindergarten through fifth grade and add a grade each year. For more information or to sign up for the new public charter school visit www.midlandsstem.org.
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