Carol West, STEM West coordinator, leads a professional development session Wednesday to launch the school’s STEM candidate process.


Lakeshore Middle School will officially begin the journey to becoming a N.C. STEM School of Distinction next fall.

Assistant Principal Sarah Tucker said that school is abuzz with excitement after learning LMS had been approved as a STEM candidate school. The program will be a good fit because the school is a feeder school for Lakeshore Elementary School, which is a STEM School of Distinction, she said.

“We do have some students coming to our school from Shepherd Elementary so we want to get the word out about all of the great things what we are offering,” Tucker explained. “STEM tends to be more hands-on and engaging, but it encompasses all subjects.”

Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Jeff James said the district is proud to announce that Troutman Middle School is also a candidate school for N.C. STEM School of Distinction.

“We are pretty excited to grow that program and offer a different theme that will definitely interest some parents. If you look around the county, we are trying to have theme-based feeder patterns,” he said.

Parents have many choices of where they can send their child to school. James said he wants students to attend LMS because it’s a great school. Additionally, Weathers Creek High School, which is scheduled to open during the 2027-2028 school year, will have a STEM focus. LMS students will attend Weathers Creek.

“I chose STEM because it captures pretty much any job. If you are going to have gainful employment, it will be through STEM,” James explained.

There has also been a shift in education as legislators are starting to see the disparities that exist in student performance on standardized tests, James said. That has resulted in an increased focus in math and science in elementary and middle school to help prepare students for college and careers that require STEM skills.

I-SS has a growing list of community partners in STEM-related businesses that will help provide future opportunities for students.

Debra Lester, the district’s STEM coordinator, said it will take two years for LMS to become a STEM School of Distinction.

“Next year will be their trial run and the year after that will be their assessment year,” she explained. “It’s a rigorous process, and they will have to meet a variety of criteria and show that they can offer a good balanced, inclusive education.”

When the district took the first step earlier in the year by attending STEM training at the North Carolina Center for Advancement of Teachers, where Carol West, the expert on STEM education in N.C., gave a presentation.

On Wednesday, West gave a special interactive presentation at LMS as the school launched its STEM candidate professional development.

West asked teachers, who worked in groups, to come up with their definition of STEM. There were some common answers, such as, “engaging, collaborative, helped with problem-solving and real-life skills.”

However, there were two groups that answered STEM is Science Technology Engineering and Math.

“STEM education is so much more than Science Technology Engineering and Math,” West said, explaining that it is about quality instruction that encompasses all subjects and is designed to engage students in higher-level learning.

In another activity, teachers were given a straw, paper, tape and scissors. They were given minimal instruction and were asked to create a rocket. This lesson was designed to teach teachers about problem-solving, critical thinking and “productive struggle.