Dreier Takes On Leadership of STEM Institute

Victor Dreier brings 13 years of classroom teaching and knowledge of innovative approaches in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to his new role as director of the Arkansas Tech University STEM Institute and Project Lead the Way state affiliate director.

He also brings a passion for helping school districts, teachers and ultimately students at the K-12 levels pursue their potential.

“There are a lot of great professional development resources right in our backyard, but sometimes the awareness isn’t there,” said Dreier. “There are more and more things piled on us in education. We feel like we are about checking boxes to ensure certain things are getting done, and because of that it sometimes overshadows us having a vision of what we can do for the kids. At the STEM Institute, we want to work with districts to get back to the vision. Whatever their vision is for their district…if it is offering STEM for K-8 or K-5, whatever it is…we want to come and help them reach that vision. You can have a vision, check boxes, get better results and do what is right for your kids. The reason I am into this whole thing is the fact that I know Arkansas kids could get way better. They have unlimited potential.”

Dreier began his new job at Arkansas Tech on Jan. 18. He previously served as director of school engagement for Project Lead The Way (PLTW) in Arkansas and Oklahoma. In that role, he assisted schools and school districts with implementing STEM education and coached classroom teachers on concepts and technical knowledge.

“A science teacher has a lot of content knowledge with science, and a lot of it applied in a lot of ways, but maybe not with, say, robotics,” said Dreier. “That’s where I would make that jump and help them through those processes.”

During his years as a classroom instructor, Dreier taught industrial technology, worked to acquire cross-discipline grants, coached robotics and STEM Olympiad teams and became certified as a Master Teacher.

“Being a teacher in the past, I know one of the biggest factors is that teachers have no time,” said Dreier. “Part of the STEM Institute’s goals are to flesh out what is good, what is practical and convey that to a teacher in a way that they feel confident and supported in a small amount of time. It’s normal for teachers to feel overwhelmed with multiple new initiatives at the beginning of every school year, so what we try to do is help support them with specific ones so they can focus on the ones they know they can take on by themselves.”

Those years of teaching in the STEM fields also brought Dreier into contact with the institution that would become his place of employment.

“Arkansas Tech University is the home of Project Lead The Way in the state,” said Dreier. “I’ve always loved the faculty and staff here. You feel part of the family in a lot of ways. Getting to know the faculty here in engineering, math and science…you feel like you are part of the team, so that was a big factor. I saw the potential in this position. We can become the best STEM Institute in the state because of the support the university has given to the program.”

The Arkansas Tech STEM Institute serves as a resource for more than 40 school districts in west central Arkansas. Dreier said the institute provides those districts with tools and training they might not otherwise be able to acquire.

“Because of the way our center is built, it allows those school districts to pursue those objectives without the cost of bringing in someone from out-of-state,” said Dreier. “Many of those districts are rural or small in nature, so they may not have the specialists on staff necessary to provide teachers with the professional development they need. They can tap into our specialists to get the teachers the training they need, not only to provide their students with what is required, but to transform teaching in a way that can really show positive growth for their students. A lot of that comes from our project-based learning.

“I think one of the biggest things for all of us to understand is that STEM education doesn’t mean that every kid is going to go on to become an engineer,” continued Dreier. “A lot of times we look at that acronym, and we automatically assume that engineering is the end goal. But when you really look at STEM over the past 10 years on national and global scale, it has broadened to the point that it touches every discipline. Every student needs to be a self-learner and a problem solver.”

Visit www.atu.edu/stem to learn more about the Arkansas Tech STEM Institute.