McHenry's Parkland Middle School named top STEM school in nation

Institution selected for programming, learning spaces

Parkland Middle School in McHenry has been named the No. 1 middle school in the nation for STEM, STEAM and innovative learning after placing first at the Future of Education Technology Conference, which took place Jan. 17 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 

“It is truly humbling to be a part of something so special,” Superintendent of Schools Alan Hoffman said Wednesday. “We are so proud to be able to offer our students a top-notch, world-class, innovative experience that is unparalleled in quality.”

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, while STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

For more than 40 years, FETC has been regarded as the top technological conference in the U.S., gathering some of the most dynamic and innovative leaders and professionals from around the world, school officials said.

In achieving the 2020 FETC STEM Excellence Award, Parkland was chosen among schools from across the nation as providing the best programming and learning spaces for its students.

“Every day at Parkland we are challenging and stretching the minds of our students so that they will be prepared for an ever-changing, technology-rich future,” said Fred Laudadio, executive director of learning and technology at McHenry School District 15.

The district has emphasized STEM, STEAM and innovative learning during the past several years. Last year, District 15’s McHenry Middle School was recognized nationally by finishing in second place behind a STEM academy in Savannah, Georgia.

“We truly believe in this type of educational programming and the benefits of these student-centered learning spaces,” District 15 Assistant Superintendent Josh Reitz said. “We know they will have a profound impact on the lives of our students. Because of that, we are proud to share our journey with school districts from across the nation.”

District 15’s programming is designed to be student-centered, administrators said, giving children a wide selection of technologically rich, real-life, project-based learning activities, according to the district. 

“Parkland offers a robust learning environment that is relevant, rigorous, tied to core academics and is standards-based,” Parkland Principal Mike Adams said. “Our STEM, STEAM and innovative programming lays the groundwork for our students to be active participants in their own learning journey.”

Parkland’s success has been defined by a laser-like focus on innovation but is accentuated by high-quality instruction, collaboration and hands-on, minds-on learning, school district officials said.

“This award is a tribute to the amazing talented teachers and students that make our STEM program what it is: the best in the country,” Hoffman said. 

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