Northwestern appoints STEM coordinator for partnership with District 65


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Joseph E. Hill Early Education Center serves about 450 early childhood students and their families annually in district 65. Jennifer Lewin was appointed as STEM director to act as a liaison between the district and the University.

Madeleine Fernando, Reporter

Northwestern has appointed a former Chicago Public Schools science teacher as the STEM coordinator between Northwestern and Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Jennifer Lewin, a CPS schoolteacher for the past eight years, will act in the newly-created position as a liaison for District 65’s 18 schools and the University to provide resources in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in public schools.

Lewin said when she learned of the open job position as the STEM coordinator between NU and District 65, it was an opportunity she “couldn’t pass up.”

“It was an opportunity to get into a coaching role to bring the knowledge and love that I have for science to teachers,” Lewin said. “I know my skill set can be very helpful in that sense.”

In May, Northwestern and District 65 announced plans to start a new partnership office that will allow the University to extend its resources to the school district in support of its STEM programs.

Lewin’s main responsibilities will consist of working with the local schools to address each school’s needs, developing programs that foster interest in STEM-related fields, extending opportunities to District 65’s students to learn from NU’s community and giving NU students more volunteer opportunities to interact with the younger students.

“We’re of the mind that whatever we can do to strengthen our schools is important,” said Alan Anderson, NU’s executive director of neighborhood and community relations. “We were glad to support the idea and the concept … we want to make sure it is aligned to the top priorities of the district.”

The early stages of the partnership will mainly consist of introductory meetings with different teachers and administrators of District 65’s schools to better understand the capacity and needs of each school, Anderson said.

Eventually, Lewin hopes to help implement additional STEM-related programming and curriculum that allows District 65’s students — especially those from underrepresented backgrounds — to have an opportunity to gain exposure to STEM fields, she said. She also hopes to create more direct partnerships between local schools and the University that foster learning, growth and creativity related to STEM.

“She’s an incredibly community-focused educator,” said Michael Kennedy, director of the University’s Science in Society research center. “Not only does she understand science, engineering and math incredibly well, she really understands that education is about serving the whole child.”

Lewin grew up with a strong background in the sciences, with both of her parents in health science professions, she said. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in biology at Loyola University, she started working in a research lab before realizing she had a knack for explaining science, and she shifted her focus to teaching.

She worked at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum as a Museum Educator where she led student and teacher programs and also coordinated outreach efforts before becoming a teacher in CPS.

“She has really innovative ideas on how to support their learning,” Kennedy said. “She’s a great listener; she’s just somebody who is just a tremendous community asset. She’s a teacher through and through … she just goes to the ends of the earth for her kids.”

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