First-Year Teacher Uses STEM to Help Her Students Communicate

Samsam Warsame teaches 3rd-5th grade at the Ann Sullivan Communication Center in Minneapolis, MN. The school is named after the woman who taught Helen Keller how to communicate, which is fitting, because Warsame’s biggest challenge is helping her students communicate in their new home.

Warsame’s students are English Language Learners (ELL) who recently moved to the United States from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Most of these students have come from refugee camps where there was little or no opportunity for them to receive an education.

warsameUsing STEM to Break Language Barriers

Warsame uses STEM subjects like science and math to teach her students how to learn and communicate while they’re still trying to grasp the English language.

Despite limited schooling, many of Warsame’s students recognize numbers and apply that knowledge to learning new math lessons in a U.S. classroom. “Math is a universal language wherever you go, you’ll always see numbers,” said Warsame. “Understanding math allows my students to cross boundaries that may be a challenge to them.”

Warsame also uses science to help her students succeed because “science is everywhere,” even if they don’t realize it. She believes it’s important for her students to understand this subject because all of their actions and everything that’s happening in the world relates back to science.

Hands-on Learning Requires Supplies 

Supplies are essential for teaching STEM, especially in an ELL classroom. Most of Warsame’s students don’t know how to read, so they need hands-on learning tools to understand more complicated lessons. Warsame is a first-year teacher, and she has already spent money from her own pocket to provide school supplies for her students. This year, she’s purchased pencils, notebooks, books, markers, staplers, hole punchers and a carpet for her classroom.

“I’ve spent around $300 so far and the school year has just started,” said Warsame. “If I spent $300 already, I wonder how much I’m going to be spending the rest of the school year?”

Walking into an Empty Classroom

When Warsame entered her classroom for the first time this fall, she wasn’t expecting the financial burden that came with teaching. Her family is still shocked, and questions why her school isn’t providing the materials her classroom is missing. Warsame has since turned to crowdfunding her classroom needs.

“I created a classroom page on because I don’t have a lot, and purchasing things for my classroom here and there made me realize this can get costly,” said Warsame. “Another reason I joined was because I felt like the organization was doing a lot to connect first-year teachers.”

Shortly after creating an account, Warsamewarsame_classroom received more than $160 from the First-Year Teacher Fund in November. These funds will help Warsame purchase the classroom supplies that her students’ parents can’t afford. Warsame understands the struggle that many of these families are facing.

Families Choose Between Food and Pencils, Warsame Fills the Gap

“The families don’t have these materials at home because they just arrived to the country,” said Warsame. “Purchasing school supplies isn’t the first thing on their minds. Getting a place to live, food to eat, and clothing for their children are the first things on their mind.”

When Warsame’s classroom is missing supplies, she doesn’t feel like her students are receiving the same education as those who do have materials. To ensure the success of her students, Warsame continues to be their champion by purchasing supplies out of her paycheck so they don’t go without.

If you’re interested in helping Warsame purchase supplies, visit her classroom page here.

Want to fund a STEM classroom? Visit our STEM Fund!