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Full STEAM Ahead: Meet teacher Olivia Hugo

Maize South Elementary School STEAM teacher Olivia Hugo works with her students.Olivia Hugo wants her students to know that they can do anything they put their minds to. Hugo, who teaches science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) at Maize South Elementary School, said she teaches her students that there will be people in their lives who tell them they can’t do something.

“But if you believe you can, the sky’s the limit,” she said.

She reminds her students to always have a growth mindset. She painted a rainbow in her classroom, high up on the walls with the help of her brother and husband, and loves to tell students about it.

“I’m preaching to them that they can do anything if they set their mind to it,” Hugo said. “Did I know how to paint? No, but I tried, and it’s good.”

In her STEAM room, you’ll find a LEGO wall, activity bins, a calm down space, and two hydroponic farm stands. The students will grow lettuce, blue kale, broccoli, and mixed greens and then will wash the vegetables and serve them in the cafeteria for lunch.

“The kids are all excited about it,” Hugo said.

Hugo said she likes teaching STEAM because it involves teamwork and creating every single day.

Maize South Elementary School STEAM teacher Olivia Hugo works with her students.“It’s really fun all the time, learning, making the mistakes, and growing from them,” she said. “We’re basically doing hands-on learning, creating every single day, and experimenting. It’s really awesome to see the kids work together in this role.”

In October, Hugo spent time in the classroom introducing a physical science unit for each grade. Students also made pumpkin catapults in October. Later, they will learn about sound waves, electricity and circuits, and force in motion.

“It’s so much fun every single day. I just wear a smile on my face,” Hugo said. “My face hurts by the end of the day, because I’m just seeing so much creativity happening in here.”

Hugo said STEAM classrooms give elementary- and intermediate-aged students a glimpse into future career paths as they get older. In October, second graders made corn mazes and watched a video about farmers who make the largest corn mazes in the world.

Normally, when she asks kindergarten students what they want to be when they grow up, the responses are typically the same: a doctor, a veterinarian, a teacher.

Hugo said students that age don’t know much more beyond those professions.

“I think that this is a really cool position in that it shows them things that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to," she said.

This is Hugo’s fifth year teaching. Before teaching STEAM, she taught kindergarten and first grade. She said she’s grateful and thankful the STEAM job opened up.

“This is truly my passion,” Hugo said. “And it’s just such a great opportunity. I appreciate everybody who voted for it, because it’s definitely a necessity. I think the kids are going to learn a lot and be well-equipped when they get to intermediate school and then middle school.”

Read the STEAM series