STEM Professional Development

STEM professional development classes


Mercy University’s Center for STEM Education is pleased to offer schools and districts professional development programs for both teachers and administration. Our professional development offerings are designed by full-time Mercy University faculty and presented by faculty, STEM education professionals and master teachers. Please see descriptions of what we have been working on, but feel free to approach us with a specific need or focus so we can create an appropriate program for you.

Participating in the STEM Ambassador Program has been a rewarding experience that seamlessly integrated my role as a school psychologist with the world of science, technology, and engineering. As an STEM Ambassador, I had the opportunity to engage students in hands-on STEM activities, fostering their curiosity and critical thinking skills. This unique blend of psychological expertise and STEM education proved beneficial, allowing me to address both academic and socio-emotional aspects of students' development. Lastly, being a part of the STEM Ambassador Program enriched my professional skills and positively impacted the school community.”  

Ashley Ramirez, STEM Ambassador Cohort 2

This grant program has opened my mind to so many new things.  I am very inspired to teach coding, robotics, AI and engineering to my students.  I have already incorporated and shared some of the new material with them.  The kids are thrilled to be learning engineering and coding in the library.  It has been great to meet new people in my district.  And, I have already begun collaborating with the enrichment teachers on our robotics curriculum. Many Thanks!!!”  

Bethany Savino, Clarkstown Smart Start

Smart Start Grants / Westchester STEM Ambassadors

MCSE was designated as the Professional Development provider for two Department of Education Smart Start grants over five years, with the Clarkstown UFSD, and with a consortium of Westchester school districts lead by the Ossining School District. Fifty K-8 Westchester STEM Ambassadors each year come from six partner districts: New Rochelle, White Plains, Tarrytown, Ossining, Port Chester, Elmsford and Peekskill.  Clarkstown UFSD, also now in Year 3, has 25 teachers in the program.

In the year-long program, STEM Ambassadors are trained in student-centered instruction that leverages computer science, engineering and educational technology tools, and vertical professional learning communities with teachers from other districts. Ambassadors earn a $2000 stipend and are able to request grant-funded technology and engineering materials for their classrooms to bring the practices into reality.  Chosen teachers come from all educational backgrounds – library, ENL, STEM coordinators, elementary teachers and teaching assistants.

Program Components:

  • 40 hours of STEM professional development using hands-on work with robots, engineering and 5E lesson planning.
  • Meetings will take place weeknights 4-6pm or 5-7pm (your choice) roughly twice a month September through March, either at the Mercy University Tarrytown campus training rooms, on Zoom or on your own.
  • Culminating activities:
  • 5E STEM lesson plan posted to a New York State Smart Start site for teachers
  • Recording of a STEM lesson in your classroom
  • Final presentation with VPLC group at a March symposium on the Mercy University campus.

APPLY HERE by May 13, 2024

CLICK HERE to see a recording of our informational session for the program. Passcode is 89%ZE2J&







K-12 STEM Educators Conference: Sparking a STEM Future

Fall 2023 

Download a copy of our program here

Dr. Scott Misner from the City of New Rochelle Public Schools, and teachers, testing their engineered towers on a shake table. 

Engineering workshop


Conference Flyer

Professional Development Instructor Bios

Dr. Amanda Gunning is an assistant professor of Science Education at Mercy University where she teaches both content and methods courses for K-12 teacher candidates. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Physics from University of Richmond, a Master of Arts in Secondary Science Education from City College and her doctoral work at Teachers College, Columbia University focused on Elementary Science Education. Amanda enjoys working with teachers and after six years teaching in public schools in the Bronx and Rockland, she has been providing professional development for K-12 educators in science for ten years. While teaching, Amanda participated in a Research Experience for Teachers, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and hosted by Brooklyn Polytechnic University (now NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering) in electrical and mechanical engineering. This experience fueled her interest in engineering and led to her incorporating it meaningfully in science instruction and teacher education. Amanda co-directs the Greater NY Wipro Science Education Fellowship with Meghan Marrero, which provides research-driven PD for 60 K-12 science teacher fellows. She presents her research on science teacher self-efficacy, vertical learning communities and family STEM learning at international conferences every year since 2009 and is published. She is the Co-Director and Co-Founder of Mercy University's Center for STEM Education with Meghan.

Dr. Meghan E. Marrero is a professor of secondary science education at Mercy University, co-director of the Mercy University Center for STEM Education and an educational consultant. A former high school science teacher in New York City, Meghan has since conducted K-12 STEM professional development workshops for teachers and administrators across the country as well as in Dublin, Ireland as a part of her Fulbright Scholarship in 2018. More locally, Meghan has served as an instructional coach in independent, public and charter schools. She has served as PI and co-PI of many large grant programs focused on teacher preparation and professional development. At Mercy University, she teaches courses in elementary and secondary science methods, oceanography, and assessment. Meghan has extensive experience working with teachers and administrators in aligning their work with the Next Generation Science Standards and their instructional philosophies. As co-Principal Investigator of the NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project, she helped teachers incorporate STEM practices into elementary, middle and high school classrooms through the integration of instructional technology resources and engineering practices. Meghan holds a degree in biological science from Cornell University, and a master's and doctorate in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has written a variety of STEM-based curricula and a high school marine science textbook. She has also presented at numerous national and international conferences, including the National Science Teachers Association, American Educational Research Association, National Marine Educators Association, and National Association for Research in Science Teaching.

Kristen Napolitano is the seniorl researcher for the Center for STEM Education at Mercy University. Dr. Napolitano holds her Ed.D in Science Education with a specialization in Teacher Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has provided professional development for education technologies, such as Scratch and MakeyMakey for in-service teachers at Montclair State University and for the New Jersey Educational Computing Cooperative. She has also provided professional development around co-teaching as a way of engaging students in STEM for in-service teachers at a public school in New Jersey and for the Emerging Learning Design 2018 Annual Conference. Additionally, Dr. Napolitano gained nine years experience working in Gifted Education for the Gifted and Talented Academy at Montclair State University. She proudly joins Mercy University after seven years of teaching 7th-12th grade life sciences including biology, biotechnology, genetics, and forensic science.

Elena Nitecki is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Early Childhood and Childhood Education at Mercy University. Her academic experience includes teaching a variety of courses at the postsecondary level, serving on numerous committees, writing accreditation reports, and chairing her department.  Academic scholarship includes publications and presentations on various topics in early childhood education, teacher preparation, and the impact of the Global Education Reform Movement on the education of young children. Her current research includes various topics in early childhood education teacher preparation, the impact of the Global Education Reform Movement on the education of young children, and STEM education in elementary schools.  

Latanya Brandon is an assistant professor at SUNY New Paltz School of Education. She focuses on science education, with teaching experience at the secondary and higher education levels.

Brandon’s research interests lie at the intersection of teacher learning and leadership for equity in science education. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Science Teacher Education and the International Journal of Leadership in Education, and at conferences hosted by Northeast Association for Science Teacher Educators and the American Educational Research Association, among others. She has also facilitated professional development sessions for in-service classroom teachers and adjunct faculty.

Born in New York, Brandon enjoys brisk walks with her dog, simple DIY projects and the challenge of new opportunities.

Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn has taught at Columbus Elementary School in New Rochelle for 20+ years. As the school's K-5 science facilitator, she has worked with students and teachers to develop a school-wide, integrated, hands-on approach to learning called STR2EAMing into LEARNing which culminates with the K-5 Convention. Creating authentic opportunities for design thinking she has mentored ExploraVision teams as well as a top 20 nationwide finisher in a NASA Engineering Design Challenge.

For two summers she has conducted research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's Tree Ring Laboratory as part of Columbia University's Summer Research Program. Taking learning abroad, she has spent two summers in Asia working with STEM teachers in Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. She was recently honored with the Anton Banko Excellence in Elementary Educator Award by the State Science Association.

Elizabeth continues to challenge herself and her students to think creatively as they solve problems and create innovative solutions to real-world situations.

Chuck Sincerbeaux has been an elementary school teacher in the White Plains Public Schools for over 25 years.  He has used computer technology in his classroom for most of his career and has led many technology workshops.  He completed his two-year Mercy University/Wipro Science Education Fellowship in 2016 and was a recent recipient of a Wipro Mini-Grant for The Equity Project, which allowed him to give extra mentoring and supplies for his students to excel at their school STEM fair. Chuck is a former NSF Fellow in Mathematics.


Amanda Solarsh is a passionate STEM educator, administrator and professional learning specialist. After eleven years teaching middle school science and STEM and three years working as a district STEM coordinator, Amanda joined the Mercy Center for STEM Education as a collaborator in the fall of 2022. Amanda’s areas of specialty in STEM education are in science, engineering, project based learning, technology integration, curriculum development and professional learning.

Sabrina Avila brings extensive experience coordinating grant-funded STEM education initiatives and delivering science instruction and professional development.  Currently in her role as Senior Manager of CUNY K16’s STEM Research Academy, Sabrina oversees the project management of all campus research academies which match NYC high school students to CUNY STEM faculty for immersive, hands-on summer research experiences, which are part of K16 Initiatives’ broader strategy to build STEM pathways from high school into college and increase the numbers of underrepresented students pursuing STEM degrees and careers.  Previously, as Director of Course Redesign on the five year, federally funded STEM Bridges across Eastern Queens project, Sabrina worked with STEM undergraduate faculty at Queens College and Queensborough Community College to incorporate active-learning curriculum enhancements into their courses and designed a student peer-mentoring program.  Prior to that, she worked with the Urban Advantage NYC Middle School Science Initiative, housed in the American Museum of Natural History, supporting teachers, students, and their families to access learning opportunities in NYC’s renowned science institutions.  Sabrina holds a B.A. in Economics and Environmental Science from Barnard College and an Ed.M. in Science Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she is also currently a PhD candidate in the same program.