$1 million gift to the PSU Graduate School of Education establishes the Vernier STEM Classroom


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June 11, 2018 – Education advocates and philanthropists Christine and David Vernier have donated $1 million to Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education to create a fully equipped STEM training classroom for PSU’s new 4th and Montgomery building, expected to open in 2020.

“We are grateful for this generous gift in support of STEM education,” said PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi. “This philanthropic investment will create new opportunities for students to learn by doing, preparing them to lead as educators in our region.”


Sybil Kelley and Jean Aguilar-Valdez help make STEM classroom a reality

Sybil KelleyJean Aguilar-Valdez

Two GSE faculty members were recognized by the PSU Foundation for their leadership in acquiring $1.25 million in funding toward the GSE’s new home that opens in fall 2020. Assistant Professor Jean Aguilar-Valdez and Associate Professor Sybil Kelley are leaders in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) instruction. The PSU Foundation presented them with the Philanthropic Leadership Award at this year’s Commencement Ceremony. Aguilar-Valdez and Kelley have played significant roles in developing programming that led to the philanthropic gift to build the Vernier STEM Classroom in the new 4 th and Montgomery building.

Aguilar-Valdez teaches science methods and social justice courses for the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. This includes working with teachers in the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program and with students to develop community activist approaches to education.

Kelley leads the Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) program in the Educational Leadership and Policy Department. In addition, she teaches the elementary science methods course for GTEP in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and is also the faculty coordinator for the Learning Gardens Laboratory in Southeast Portland that provides garden- based education for public school students, university students, and community members.

GSE Alumna Rachel Stagner selected for national science award


The US Department of Energy and partnering federal agencies have finalized the selections for the 2018–2019 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow (AEF). PSU alumna Rachel Stagner, ’08, ’13, is one of 14 educators named for this prestigious award. She teaches chemistry and forensic science at Madison High School in Portland Public School District. Stagner will take a one-year leave of absence from her school to live and work at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Stagner has two master’s degrees from PSU, an MEd, ’08, and an MST, ’13, and serves on the board of the Oregon Science Teachers Association. In 2017–19 she was named a Murdock Partner in Science, which enables her to spend two summers at Oregon Health and Science University on a neuroscience project with Dr. Henryk Urbanski.

Stagner has taught at Madison since 2009 and serves as co-department head. She has mentored middle and high school minority and at-risk students and developed curriculum for the Oregon MESA project (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement). She is committed to increasing the number of women and minority students in STEM.

“It’s a great honor, and I wanted to say thank you to the GSE,” said Stagner, who credits the late GSE professor Ron Narode as her methods teacher. “I know he would have been proud.”

The AEF program was signed into law in 1994 to provide opportunities for K–12 educators in STEM to serve in a federal agency or US Congressional office. Educators return home with broader knowledge in their fields that can be applied to their classrooms and schools.