As the STEM lab teacher at James E. Farmer Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky, Jessica Goodman has created an innovative K-5 curriculum focused on collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity. The hands-on nature of STEM activities presented a challenge for Goodman during the pandemic, but she adapted her instruction quickly, creating a series of “Get Your Geek On” experiments students could do at home. Through engaging activities like the Skittles Rainbow Experiment, Cup Stack Challenge, Dissolving Candy Experiment, Building Creature Catchers, Colorful Chemical Reactions, and Notecard Tower Challenge, Goodman tapped into students’ interests and sparked their imaginations. As Farmer’s technology coordinator, Goodman coordinated Chromebook distribution and maintenance during virtual learning, coaching teachers through content filters, login access, Google Meet and Google Classroom. When she noticed participation in online lessons lagging among English language learners (ELL), she developed a plan to reach them that included collaborating with ESL teachers, classroom teachers and families; creating differentiated lessons for ELL students; and holding daily office hours online for extra help.
Goodman’s instructional practices have proven effective in narrowing the achievement gap at Farmer. She often incorporates literacy into her STEM lessons and makes sure all students feel successful and challenged. The entire school participates in Hour of Code and Minecraft Education. Goodman’s annual STEAM night has doubled in size since she took over, with 300 families attending last year. Students and families move through activity centers where they make aluminum foil boats and slime, program robots, produce digital art, work with 3-D printers, view the constellations on iPads, and take pictures in a green screen “mad scientist” photo booth. Goodman started the school’s Junior Beta robotics team in 2016, leading students through the design, creation and testing of robots, including documenting successes and failures so they can optimize their robots’ performance. The team’s robots have included Skit, which sorted Skittles candies by color; Mr. Metal, which collected metal for recycling; and BB3 (Beta Balloon Bot), which blew up balloons whose color matched balls dropped into the robot. The team has won the Kentucky Junior Beta state championship four times and earned top honors at the National Junior Beta Convention twice.
Goodman is Farmer’s Quick Recall coach, academic coordinator and written assessment coach. She is a Google Level 1 certified educator and serves on the school’s Site Based Decision Making committee. Goodman led a session on STEM at the Jefferson County Public Schools summer institute for educators and was chosen for the district’s inaugural one-year Aspiring Leaders Principal Certification Program with Spalding University. She collaborates with many local organizations to bring STEM programs to Farmer, including the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering, Kentucky Science Center, Parklands of Floyd Creek and Idlewild Butterfly Farm.
Goodman earned a bachelor’s in elementary education and learning and behavioral disabilities in 2013 from the University of Louisville, a master’s in teacher leadership in 2018 from Bellarmine University, and a master's in instructional leadership in 2021 from Spalding University. She obtained her Principal Certification in 2021 as well.
Press release: STEM Exploration Narrows Achievement Gaps, Earns Louisville's Jessica Goodman a $25,000 Milken Educator Award
"When I started teaching, I realized that not every kid loves coming to school. I want to change that and make school a fun, exciting..." (read more)