Melissa Moritz (Gregson) - Teach For America
Managing Director, STEM Initiative
Melissa Gregson serves as the Managing Director of Teach For America’s STEM Initiative. After graduating from MIT with a B.S. in Biology, Melissa joined Teach For America where she taught middle school science at MS 321 in New York City. In 2008, she joined Teach For America’s staff in Boston as the Recruitment Director for MIT and other Boston area schools. She believes passionately that all children should have the opportunity to experience the wonder of math and science. She resides in Washington, DC.
Why do you believe STEM workforce and education are important to the nation?
STEM holds incredible potential for our nation. Currently, in the U.S., there are many available jobs in STEM fields, and millions of kids who are not achieving at levels that will make them competitive for these positions when they enter the workforce. In 2009, only 34% of 4th graders nationwide, 11% of African-America students and 14% of Latino/Hispanic students, scored proficient in science. We know our kids are smart and have incredible potential, but currently are not receiving the quality of education they deserve in these disciplines. An excellent education in STEM opens many doors, but it also teaches kids to solve complicated problems, be curious and ask critical questions and develop solutions to challenges communities face across the country.
What can we do to assume more women leaders in STEM?
To invite more women into the STEM field, we will need to change the perception that it’s a male dominated field and celebrate the female leaders currently in it. People like, astronaut Sally Ride, have done incredible work to advance the field and also send a positive message to young girls and women that they too can be successful in math and science fields. In addition to creating highly visible examples of successful women in STEM, having strong mentors and role models to provide personal support and encouragement to young girls is deeply important. For example, I decided to study biology because Mrs. Schwartz, my phenomenal middle school science teacher, challenged me and made science really fun and accessible.
Of what one initiative are you most proud?
I am most proud of the initiative that Teach For America launched in 2006 to bring more STEM teachers into low-income communities. In light of the national need to grow the pool of talented STEM teachers, we have worked incredibly hard to recruit and prepare more STEM teachers. Since the initiative launched in 2006, we have brought over 7,000 STEM teachers to low-income communities across the country –1,800 new STEM teachers last school year alone – making Teach For America one of the largest providers of STEM teachers nationwide.
Beyond our own work to recruit more math and science teachers, I’m incredibly proud to be part of the 100Kin10 Initiative. It’s so exciting to see so many talented people and effective organizations collaborating to ensure more kids are getting access to an excellent STEM education. Working together has the potential to amplify our efforts and will be crucial to achieving our goals in STEM education.
What about STEM gives you passion?
There are so many things that get me excited about STEM. Personally, I grew up in a household where, instead of recapping the day at the dinner table, my family and I solved math problems together. I also had STEM teachers who challenged my thinking, made me work really hard and taught me to think in new, critical, ways. Professionally, there is nothing like watching a STEM teacher ignite passion and fire in their students. I derive so much motivation just from watching these teachers excite a new generation of scientists. STEM gives us the tools we need to explore the world, seek answers to the challenges we face today and search for solutions to the challenges we will face tomorrow.