Lukas Hefty has a singular mission: to introduce young students to the exciting fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As the magnet coordinator plus mathematics and science coach at Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Elementary in St. Petersburg—a magnet school focused on mathematics and engineering—Hefty has led the evolution of the Jamerson Engineering Units, a unique, teacher-created curriculum for all grade levels. Hefty orchestrates extended planning sessions, facilitates team discussions, sources supporting materials, and collaborates with teachers on ideas for design challenges, always ensuring that plans align with the school's rigorous standards and benchmarks for innovative and critical thinking. He teaches an after-school STEM lab for fourth- and fifth-grade students and has organized two schoolwide engineering fairs involving team displays, student-led activities, an all-school design challenge and evening events that drew more than 800 family and community members.
Under Hefty's STEM leadership, students at the high-poverty, highly diverse school are flourishing. In 2011, only 48% of fifth-grade students achieved a level 3 or higher on the science FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). By 2015, 81% of students reached that benchmark. The school's math and science scores rank in the top five among the district’s more than 80 elementary schools. A Magnet School of Excellence, Jamerson Elementary was named the country’s top elementary STEM program at the Future of Education Technology Conference in 2016.
Hefty is known as a quiet, expert observer and an invaluable resource for students, staff, current families, prospective families and other schools across the county. He plays a significant role in continuing education at Jamerson Elementary, modeling lessons and teaching techniques in the classroom and leading STEM workshops to raise teachers' comfort level with the unique integrated STEM curriculum. Hefty works closely with colleagues to meet each student’s needs, pulling small groups of struggling students together and providing differentiated curriculum to help them succeed. And they do: In past years, 90% of the students studying with Hefty in these small groups made learning gains on state standardized tests. Hefty is credited with raising application rates to the magnet school, where admission is by lottery.
Hefty shares his expertise freely, leading tours at Jamerson Elementary for local and state educators. He is the facilitator for the Jamerson Magnet Leadership Team and advisor for Azalea Middle School's Engineering Gateway to Technology magnet program. Hefty also mentors three school teams outside Pinellas County as they build their own engineering programs and curriculum. He has presented at the Magnet Schools of America Conference and for the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics and published articles in industry journals like Dimensions in Mathematics, Science and Children, and Teaching Children Mathematics (TCM); his TCM article "Goldilocks an Engineer?" explored how to teach engineering to kindergarteners. As a result of Hefty's presentations and articles, Jamerson Elementary has shared its teacher-developed STEM curriculum with schools and universities from more than 30 states. Schools around the country regularly seek Hefty out to provide leadership on developing curriculum, maintaining or starting a magnet school and designing professional leadership opportunities.
Hefty is National Board Certified. He earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 2004 and a Master of Arts in elementary education with a math/science emphasis in 2008 from the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. He is currently an adjunct professor there teaching math practices to future elementary teachers.
"I had the opportunity to attend the same elementary school where my mom was a teacher. I was in her classroom before and after school..." (read more)