Penny Bauder
Oct 7 · 11 min read

As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Ms. Anike Sakariyawo, CEO of S.E.E.K. Foundation. As an educator of 15 years, she noticed there is a lack of digital technology, engineering, and hands on learning infused in the Title 1 schools because of funding. She now strives to have kids evolve as learners in the 21st Century — and to ultimately get them career in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Sakariyawo is a science instructor, who obtained a Masters is General Science, to learn more about STEM topics — and will be enrolled in a Biotechnology Master’s Program for teachers. This process has enabled her to teach topics related to STEM. As of June 8,2018, Sakariyawo resigned from Miami Dade County Public Schools to better serve students in underfunded areas. For example, she start the first ever Robotics program at Miami Norland Senior High School in 2016. Since it became a challenge to fund the program for students to compete on a state and nationally level, she wrote a grant to (and was awarded), Best Buy for her students at Miami Norland High School to compete on a state and national level. Currently, she is pushing to change the stereotypes of scientists and would like to get more women involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In 2019, S.E.E.K. Foundation will launch an all-girls STEM summer camp that will focus on different genres in science, such as: Farming Business, Drones, STEM and Sewing, Agriculture through Hydroponics and more.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory”behind what brought you to this particular career path?

My older sister, who passed away in January of 2017, was my inspiration and is the main reason why I became a teacher. I could remember at age 8, I was trying to teach her how to write part of her name, “Pat,” which is short for, “Patricia.” Patricia was autistic and mentally disabled. She was extraordinary and taught me how to love people despite their physical differences. Working with her daily to write,” Pat,” was the vehicle that drove me into teaching children with learning disabilities. Patricia accomplished writing 3 letters at the age of 16. This is how my education career began teaching children with learning disabilities!

Fast forward, in 2010, I was placed in a 6-grade science classroom and was extremely intimidated on how to make science content fun for middle schoolers. I, then, attended Miami Dade Community college to gain more knowledge about general science. Subsequently, I grew a love for teaching science and decided to get my Master’s in Education, with a concentration in General Science at Cambridge College. While teaching high school science, I noticed the lack of STEM program and education at the current school I was employed at. This is how S.E.E.K Foundation began! It was created to provided STEM programs and resources to children of all ages, especially those in underserved areas.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In 2012, I was the only 8th grade educator teaching general and honors comprehension science with a new science coach.

I can vividly remember having a state visit from individuals working at the district and state level to assess the school and the employees the school. During their walk through in my class, I was going over theories and laws and said the wrong information. I was called out on my mistake by one of the state representatives. The science coach brought it to my attention, and I was embarrassed. It made me feel like a failure. I let down my science and administration team because my lack of preparation. I thought I had it covered by briefly reviewing the information.

I failed because of lack of pre-planning; preparation resulted in poor performance.

This was one of the most interesting stories about my growth of an educator. This science coach pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me feel uncomfortable. She was pushing me to be an impactful teacher. I was being hard-pressed to stray away from the most popular teaching method of “direct instruction” to gradual release with a cutting edge, project-based teaching style. This change was tough, but I was willing to learn to create a greater impact on students’ knowledge.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently working to raise funds for our Build-Code-Program. This program allows children to use the engineer design process to produce and or improve a product, learn coding skills to build websites and gain knowledge of digital marketing to grow a company. These skills are needed to compete in a tech-driven workforce. This program is in partnership with children attending the Littles Roses Program in Johannesburg, South Africa and in Miami Gardens.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are authority in the education field?

I am an authority figure because people value and respect my expertise. They also understand my integrity in education. The 15-year journey as an educator, along with the experience, would qualify me as an authority figure. In addition, I can lead and provide both in-depth and meaningful content on the education system and STEM education.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?

From my point of view, I would rate the US education system school system as unrealistic and a disservice to students. It is not designed to teach all students to meet the economic demands of the industrial revolution.

Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?

According to Forbes (July 2018), there are many factors that contribute to a great public-school system: performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials, to name a few. Although, the quality of public schools can vary greatly within a state, personal finance site WalletHub recently set out to determine which states generally have the top ranked school systems from K-12.

The best school system in the US are in:

· Massachusetts

· New Jersey

· Connecticut

· New Hampshire

· Vermont

According to US News (May 14, 2019), The best Education System in the US are:

· Massachusetts

· New Jersey

· Florida

· Washington

· New Hampshire

Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?

There are over 5 ways the US can improve their education system. The five key areas for improvement in the US education Systems are:

· Remove unexperienced politicians from making educational policies: Politicians are creating policies for education but have no experience on how it will affect student outcome, culture, social economic status, etc. Some of the policies are unrealistic for the learner and the educator.

· Value, respect and encourage teachers: Teachers are responsible for the next generation of learners. Teachers should receive higher pay, less work, and more time to plan an effective/realistic curriculum for their learners.

· Basic skill development: Students are using the common core standard which does not teach them basis skills that are need in a global society, that is constantly evolving.

· Change the structure of the schools. A lot of schools are built like prisons. Structure all schools to actual career fields to promote personalized learning instead of only standardized learning

· Change how students are evaluated: If we have 8 different multiple intelligences, why are most children being evaluated on a standardized assessment? Students should have an option to demonstrate their comprehension of a content information in various ways.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

According to the Whitehouse.gov, the US is not meeting the needs of young people in STEM, especially minorities. As reported in November 2019, The US department of Education invested over 250 million dollars in high-quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), including computer science, education. A Report by the Committee on STEM Education of the National Science & Technology Council developed a 5-year strategic plan for STEM education. The vision is for a future where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment.

· Get Parents and communities to advocate for STEM programs and involvement

· Early STEM education Exposure to children to provide practical experiences (school, work force, community centers, etc.)

Provide more STEM programs in school as a part of the curriculum

Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?

It is important to engage girls in STEM for the following reasons:

· Do away with stereotypes about women in STEM: There are masculine stereotypes (old white men in a lab coat) and common norms about women role in society.

· They can get higher paid jobs: Women make up less than 30% of the careers related to STEM but are leading in the amount of bachelor’s degrees

· Women can be a role model for the next generation of girls in STEM.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

There is no single solution to motivate more girls in STEM, there are a few ways to get girls more involved in STEM. Some ways are:

· Get them excited about STEM at an early age

· Incorporate STEM in more afterschool programs with a role model

Expose girls to STEM careers

As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?

I believe science is in everything we do. Science is an art and art is science. For example, when students create a prototype, they are making a sketch, model, to yield an actual product. This is a form of art, just like sculptures and paintings in a gallery. However, some terms and concepts of art may not align with STEM. When an art teacher educates their students, they discuss the schematics of a particular project using artistic terms. When I’ve incorporated art into an activity, it was more about creating a prototype using scientific terms.

I believe there is a difference how the arts should be taught in regards of its relationship to STEM, but it definitely apart of STEM.

If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?

· Higher pay for teachers: During my years of being an educator, there has always been an issue with teachers receiving a raise that equated to the cost of living. I taught extra classes and tutored after school as expenses increased over the years. Most teachers work two jobs. It is hard to give 100% dedication when you’re worried about trying to save money, pay bills to take care of your family.

· Standardized testing: All students do not learn the same and they should not be assessed using the identical method. As an educator, I began letting my students, rap, draw, play charades, and or write a letter to articulate their comprehension of a specific content.

· School building infrastructures: A lot of schools are built like prisons! Especially schools in low poverty neighborhoods. Closed in building with little to no windows. Schools should be built with an environment that a student would be interested in. For example, if a student wants to become a surgeon, there school be a surgical room, just like at a trade college.

· Allocate the same amount of funding to all schools based their variables despite economic status.

· Offer basis skill development to teach skills that are need in a global society that is constantly changing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is by Albert Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” As a student and adult, I was never a good test taker with multiple choice questions. Society believes that smartness is determined by how much you can memorize and answer questions. That is not my definition of being smart. Imagination is an unlimited power that can go on forever. Imagination opens doors for the innovation that creates products. When your limited in imagination, you restrict your full potential.

This quote helped me to look at myself and the world differently. I believe I can accomplish anything with hard work, integrity, and consistency. I’ve learned how to develop realistic, lessons to teach children about innovation. In addition, this quote prompted me to start my own business and leave the school system to serve in a greater capacity. Every email I send has this quote in the signature space: “Again, Imagination presents, endless possibilities!”

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Thank you for the opportunity and taking the time to read my responses. If I could sit with one person in the world, it would be Michelle Obama. The reason why I choose Michelle is because, she has faced a lot of ridicule and backlash being an African American woman in her role as first lady of the White House! From the clothes she wears, the way she looks and how she styles her hair, etc. She did not entertain negativity, nor did she stray away from her purpose to serve the people of the United States. She is very intelligent and illustrates compassion for people from all walks of life. I value her integrity, dedication, kindness, and love for people! These are characteristics that we have in common!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

· Instagram: Agelesssmiles

· Facebook: Anike Sakariyawo

· LinkedIn: Anike Sakariyawo

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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About the author:

Penny is an environmental scientist-turned-entrepreneur. She’s worked as a climate scientist, an environmental planner, and a wilderness park ranger. Motivated by a passion to raise a generation of environmental leaders, in 2010 Penny founded Green Kid Crafts, a children’s media company that provides kids around the world with convenient and eco-friendly STEAM activities. Today, it’s become a leader in the subscription industry, with over 1 million packages shipped worldwide that have exposed a generation to think about and take a leadership role in sustainability. Penny, her husband Jeff, and her children Rowan and Declan live together in San Diego, California. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Management and an M.S. in Environmental Science. Penny has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, management, strategy and finance. She’s a seasoned leader, an inspiring speaker, an encouraging business mentor, and a creative writer. You can learn more about Green Kid Crafts at https://www.greenkidcrafts.com/ and follow Penny’s stories and updates at https://www.instagram.com/greenkidcrafts/ and https://twitter.com/bauderpenny.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Penny Bauder

Written by

Environmental scientist-turned-entrepreneur, Founder of Green Kid Crafts

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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