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District STEAM Information

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STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics to guide student dialogue, critical thinking, and creativity. STEAM takes STEM to the next level, giving students the opportunity to be expressive in demonstrating an understanding of design, problem-solving, and innovation.  A more comprehensive definition is taken from the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) website:

"STEAM, an interdisciplinary spin on STEM that includes an “A” for art, is an integral part of influencing kids’ interest in STEM by allowing kids to explore these subjects through hands-on making. STEAM is a popular movement that was founded in 2007 to promote and integrate design and art in STEM fields. The movement [is comprised of] "Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based on elements of Mathematics.”

Council Rock's STEAM program is for students in grades 1 - 6 as part of the Specials rotation. 

One of the pillars of our program is approaching STEAM instruction through the Engineering Design Process. As you can see in the image below, students are introduced early to the language of problem solving.  This language, and the process it describes, prepares students to approach challenges in a  multitude of disciplines, and eventually becomes a thinking tool they can use in school and beyond. A good description of the EDP can be found on the TeachEngineering website:

"The engineering design process is a series of steps that guides engineering teams as we solve problems. 

It emphasizes open-ended problem solving and encourages students to learn from failure.

This process nurtures students’ abilities to create innovative solutions to challenges in any subject."


Why STEAM?  The reasons we teach the STEAM disciplines to elementary students are plentiful.  Pennsylvania promotes STEM teaching and learning with frameworks and standards, available for review at STEM in Pennsylvania.

Take a moment to read about the STEAM Specialists who are leading our STEAM Team in Council Rock elementary schools. 

Andrea Mangold, STEAM Supervisor



Ms. Nikki Birkbeck

Nikki Birkbeck’s pride in Council Rock is evident through her lifelong dedication to the district. Her experience in Council Rock began as a first grader at Chancellor Street Elementary School and continued onto Goodnoe Elementary, Newtown Middle and Council Rock North. From there she went on to complete her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education K-6 from Penn State University earning additional certifications in mid-level English, Mathematics, and Citizenship. She also earned her Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Children’s Literature from Penn State University.

As a teacher in Council Rock for the past 9 years, she has taught Kindergarten, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th grade at Goodnoe Elementary. During that time she presented STEAM concepts at various conferences, served on district technology committees, as well as helped in the school play as a chorus director. Nikki has been recognized as a Keystone Technology Integrator Star, Penn State’s Outstanding New Teacher, and is on the Board of Directors for Penn State’s College of Education Alumni . Outside of school she loves learning … about everything! The world is our greatest classroom, and she believes helping others become lifelong learners themselves. Nikki is joining the STEAM team with great honor and excitement.

Ms. Birkbeck teaches at Holland Elementary (M,T, W) and Richboro Elementary (Th, F).



Mrs. Jen Sinisi

Jen Sinisi began working in Council Rock in 2001 as a learning support teacher in second and sixth grades, differentiating instruction for her students in both the resource and regular education classrooms. She received her undergraduate degree from Temple University and her graduate degree from Gratz College. For the past seventeen years, she worked as a third grade regular education teacher where she led the planning and pacing of math instruction for her team. Before Jen began her career in education, she attended The University of the Arts, where she majored in illustration and design. After art school, she worked as a freelance illustrator using 3D computer drawing tools for which she won an international Siggraph award. She uses her creativity to integrate science, technology, engineering, art, and math throughout her classroom instruction in hands-on project-based lessons. When she’s not in the classroom, she enjoys brainstorming new ideas with her husband, who is an inventor and she holds a patent for a magnetic stapler with a detachable base. 

Mrs. Sinisi believes that STEAM is a student centered, holistic design and engineering process which serves as a problem-solving framework. It’s an opportunity for kiddos to practice the steps that all engineers follow to solve problems. As they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their solutions, they come to accept that failure is a part of learning and learn to move forward whenever they face a challenge. Engineers use their knowledge of science, technology, the arts, and math to solve problems and that’s what students will do in the STEAM classroom. STEAM is not just a hands-on integrated approach to teaching problem solving. It also offers a unique opportunity to teach the skills needed not only in STEAM careers, but to be successful in a rapidly changing world. STEAM students become more flexible in their solutions. They develop a growth mindset, as they persevere through multiple iterations of design. Students with expertise like artists, engineers, mathematicians, or scientists, become leaders in the classroom, as they use their own strengths to draw others into collaborative learning opportunities. "With so many opportunities to shine, everyone finds their strength. A STEAM education goes beyond the steam classroom. Watching students go on to bring their STEAM skills to other parts of the curriculum and their life outside of school is transformative for our students. The ability of STEAM education to extend beyond the STEAM classroom always surprises and inspires me as an educator."

Mrs. Sinisi teaches at Sol Feinstone Elementary (M, T/ PM, W, Th, F) and Richboro Elementary (T/ AM).



Mrs. Traci Geller

Mrs. Geller has taught 4th grade as a learning support teacher, 5th grade, and the past 13 years as a 3rd grade teacher.She holds an Undergraduate Degree in Elementary and Special Education from The University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens) and my Master's Degree in Reading from Holy Family University. Mrs. Geller enjoys spending time with her family relaxing at the beach or on the ski slopes, playing golf, cheering the kids on in their various youth sports, and going for family bike rides and lots of walks.

For Mrs. Geller, STEAM is...learning, playing, solving problems, collaborating, creating, taking risks, investigating, discovering, and so much more. "Through STEAM, students will explore and build skills and theories about the world using a hands on approach in which they work through their own creative processes. STEAM education encourages students to "think outside of the box" and teaches how to ask questions, how to experiment, how to learn, and how to create. "STEAM is the education of the future and I am so excited to be a part of this exciting journey in Council Rock!"

Mrs. Geller teaches at Hillcrest Elementary (T, W, Th) and at Churchville Elementary (M, F).



Mr. Nick Schmoyer

To Mr. Schmoyer, STEAM is process driven, not product driven. It's an opportunity to work through tough problems that aren't "Google-able" and the freedom to arrive at any solution that works. It's a chance to take risks and grow as a problem solver, critical thinker, and effective communicator... and it's so much fun!  

Mr. Schmoyer has had the pleasure of teaching in Council Rock since 2011 as a fourth and fifth grade teacher. His favorite part about teaching is making personal connections with students and helping them overcome challenges. When not teaching, Mr. Schmoyer enjoys spending as much time as he can with his family. 

Mr. Schmoyer teaches at Rolling Hills Elementary (M, W, F) and Goodnoe Elementary (T, Th).



Mrs. Maryann Molishus

Maryann Molishus has been a teacher in the Council Rock School District since 2000. She has been a homeroom teacher in grades two and five and the gifted support teacher for Goodnoe Elementary School. Maryann has a master's degree in applied technology from Chestnut Hill College and a master's degree in STEM Education from California University of PA. She has PA certifications in elementary education K-6 and computer science 7-12. Maryann developed and, for many years, coordinated the district’s Summer STEM Academy for grades 3-8. She currently teaches a graduate course in the STEM Endorsement program with Delaware Valley University and the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, and she is a team leader with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab Center, developing and teaching after-school, Saturday, and summer STEAM programs for children in Bucks County. Maryann has been a mentor to other teachers working on their PA STEM endorsements, and she often provides support and training to teachers who are working to integrate STEAM experiences in their classrooms. She has been awarded numerous grants to support her work with technology and STEAM integration at the elementary level. Maryann is a board member of the Council Rock Education Foundation and is currently serving as the president of the foundation. 

Mrs. Molishus believes that STEAM is crucial for all our learners. STEAM is much more than a class, an activity, or a lesson. STEAM is a way of thinking and learning and doing and sharing. It connects what is happening in the classroom to what is happening in our communities and around the world. STEAM experiences give learners the opportunity to become engrossed in challenging and authentic work that empowers them to take the lead in their own learning. STEAM experiences allow learners to be collaborative and creative and to engage in problem-solving and exploration while building modern skills and understanding that will help them become informed, contributing citizens. 

Mrs. Molishus teaches at Goodnoe Elementary (M, F) and Newtown Elementary (T, W, Th).



Mrs. Danielle Pugliese

Mrs. Pugliese will be teaching STEAM at Wrightstown, Newtown, and Welch Elementary schools. As a self-proclaimed geek, Mrs. Pugliese is amped up to bring STEAM learning opportunities to Council Rock students. Mrs. Pugliese has taught kindergarten, first grade, and second grade at MMW and Richboro elementary schools. She received her undergraduate degree from Penn State. She received her Masters in Instructional Technology and STEM Letter of Endorsement from Wilkes University.

Mrs. Pugliese fell in love with all things STEAM through project-based learning units like when her second graders took their best shot at the invasive Spotted Lanternflies. Get excited to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy, just like her hero, Miss Frizzle. In STEAM class with Mrs. Pugliese, you will be involved in engaging, hands-on learning opportunities where you are creative problem solvers. STEAM is all about getting creative while solving real-world problems. Let's prepare our students to tackle any problem by researching, hypothesizing, testing, revising, and drawing conclusions like real scientists! 

Mrs. Pugliese teaches at Wrighstown Elementary (T, W, F), Newtown Elementary (M), and Maureen Welch Elementary (Th).



Mrs. Tara Handfinger

Mrs. Handfinger possesses 20 years of progressive experience in the elementary classroom, where the use of technology, creativity and the use of problem-based inquiry has always been an integral part of her teaching practice. In addition to being a teacher, her professional history includes positions such as Building Technology Mentor and Coach, Building Webmaster at Churchville Elementary, District Technology Committee Member, Technology Standards Committee Member, District and Building Diversity Committee Member, and Director of the Churchville’s Musicals. 

Mrs. Handfinger believes that STEAM is an opportunity to learn how to be better problem solvers, and to become more inquisitive thinkers. It is a class where students are encouraged to embrace failures, and use them to become more successful. It is a space where creativity is fostered, collaboration is appreciated, and knowledge is acquired organically. All of this occurs while seamlessly integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. 

Mrs. Handfinger teaches at Churchville Elementary (T, Th) and Maureen Welch Elementary (M, W, F).