STEM appoints new coordinator


Claire Grunewald

STEM Coordinator Michael Monaghan shows students in STEM how tall 56 in. would be. In STEM group, students were challenged to build towers as tall as possible with only one set of Jenga blocks.

As the first group of STEM students starts preparing for their senior year and all that comes along with it, Cross Country Coach, assistant Track Coach, and newly appointed STEM Coordinator Michael Monaghan is there to help.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program started three years ago, and according to the JC website, “is designed to encourage and inspire students who display a strong interest and aptitude for science and/or mathematics.” Students must earn at least 6 STEM credits, fulfill a research project, and accumulate 20 STEM hours of work/service in order to graduate with a STEM distinction on their diplomas.

Monaghan took the job at JC a few weeks ago, and has many high hopes for the STEM program, both short term and long term. According to Monaghan, his goals for the STEM program, short term, are “to get it back on track, get the kids interested in completing their senior project, which has to be STEM-related (it’s a research project) [and] bring in speakers and technology that the kids want to see.”

The STEM program has undergone many changes and shifts in the past year, and the current juniors have had three different STEM coordinators – former physics teacher Jorge Piquer, current math teacher Courtney Von Lange, and former physics teacher Jessica Limmer – during their time at JC, not including Monaghan.

Junior and three-year STEM student Carly Lyon has experienced all the changes in the program. “Freshman year, the program was on track and we accomplished many small tasks to get the whole thing started, and sophomore year the program really started to get moving. We had field trips and multiple speakers, but junior year was disappointing. We weren’t pushed to reach out and do extra,” Lyon said.

Aside from getting the program back on track, in the future, Monaghan wishes to accelerate the senior project process for STEM students. “In accelerating the senior project, [the students would] have time to do the research and formally present it as seniors. [I would] have them think about it from tenth grade up, which will work well for the current sophomores, but not the juniors.”

The STEM senior projects will be a new experience for both faculty and students next year. “The senior project area is still a confusing one, but with Mr. Monaghan’s help, [we will have] a set list of instructions as well as requirements to help us,” Lyon said.

Math teacher and former STEM coordinator Courtney Von Lange has developed a friendship with Monaghan through track and cross country and felt that he would be a good fit for the position.

“When I was STEM coordinator, I would bounce ideas off him, and he always had interesting solutions. He’s also no stranger to working late at night or on the weekends, which he would need to do,” Von Lange said.

In fact, Von Lange introduced the idea of coming to JC to Monaghan. “I knew he was good with high school students and I knew of his backgrounds in the STEM fields, and I thought he seemed right for the job,” Von Lange said.

“[Von Lange] said there may be an opening in the STEM coordinator position, and we talked about what’s involved and I said ‘Oh that sounds really neat,’ and ‘Hey that’s something I could do, that sounds like fun,’” Monaghan said.

When Monaghan was interviewing candidates for the new athletic director position, Principal Madelyn Ball approached him about the position. According to Monaghan, she asked about his thoughts about the program, and the knowledge he’d be able to bring as an actual STEM professional in the work force.

Before coming to JC, Monaghan held a job at Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, as a principal research scientist, which according to Monaghan was just “a fancy way they named their programmers.” There, Monaghan did database work, including applications for Android and iOS, as well as work for the Pentagon.

At JC, Monaghan will be bringing his programming knowledge and computer science degree along with him for both STEM and non-STEM students in the form of a Java programming class.

“The main reason I came here was because I had been working for 31 years in software design and thought this position would be a great way to give back and to show people what it’s like in the real world, because that’s where I come from. I’m not an educator so I would be able to answer a lot of questions and offer real-world experience,” Monaghan said.

According to Von Lange, the STEM students have welcomed the change, and both they and Monaghan are excited.

“I feel Mr. Monaghan is committed and motivated enough to put everything back on track and make up for the lost time. He is energetic about the program and takes interest in what the STEM students truly wish to explore and learn about,” Lyon said.

Claire Grunewald is a Lifestyles Editor for The Patriot and