Barnas to be STEM curriculum coordinator


Pravar Mukkala

Barnas will be the STEM curriculum coordinator for grades 6-12 starting this year.

Pravar Mukkala, Co-Managing Editor

Excelling in both math and science classes is an important part of all high school students’ careers. Whether they plan to major in biochemistry or linguistics, or go straight into getting a job, these subjects will be used everyday. Raising curiosity and being under the wings of great teachers is one of the ways students will get better at these subjects, according to the new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Curriculum Coordinator for grades 6-12 at WPS, Joe Barnas.

Barnas was previously a STEM teacher for several years and served as the interim assistant principal for Stony Brook Middle School for the 2021-2022 school year.

As someone who has taught both math and science for middle schoolers, as well as been part of a project-based learning program, Barnas has a different perspective than a teacher who just taught math or just science would have in his position.

“It’s really awesome for me to get that experience of working in teaching those subjects before moving into this division,” Barnas said. “I have firsthand knowledge of what it is like running a lab with students and [also] what it is like going through the placement process for math [classes].”

With his new position as STEM coordinator, Barnas looks forward to doing the very thing he began teaching for: interacting with students and enabling them to have the best school experience possible. As the interim assistant principal for Stony Brook last year, Barnas also got to work in an administrative position, enabling him to work with all of the teachers and students in the building. Now, he has three buildings of teachers and students to work with.

“It’s really cool to see everybody get older,” Barnas said. “My first class in Westford was sixth graders. They’re all seniors now. It’s really fun to see [them].”

As a teacher and STEM coordinator, Barnas believes that building relationships with students and engaging them to increase their curiosity are two of the most important things an educator can do. As he was walking around the school one day, he saw students playing with remote-control cars; they were having fun as well as learning. This is exactly what he aims to promote at WA and the middle schools.

“There’s that age old question of sitting in a math class and [you think,] ‘for what am I ever going to need to know this?'” Barnas said. “Helping students to have that curiosity and to understand where they can engage with math in their world [is needed everywhere].”

Barnas visits one or two schools per day, so he has met many teachers and seen many familiar student faces.

“I spend most of my time in my [office in each of the buildings] so I see all the math and science teachers basically every day,” Barnas said. “And again, popping into classes and talking with them about what’s been going on, what they need, and how I can best support them [is regular].”

However, while working with teachers is an everyday job for Barnas, his interest in teaching came from the students. As STEM coordinator, Barnas will be interacting with students in a class setting less than he did as a teacher.

“I think that’s [what] makes me nervous. It’s working with that change of how I’m interacting with students and making sure that I still get to do the parts of the education job that I really love,” Barnas said.

Regardless, Barnas is still very excited to help both teachers and students in Westford this year.

“A lot of people ask, […] ‘what are you even coming in to fix and change?’ and all these things,” Barnas said. “There’s [already] a great staff here. There are great teachers who have students’ interests at heart, and that’s really important. So I’m just really excited to be working with everybody and seeing all the different cool things that people do in their classes.”