Monthly STEM Executive Highlight: Nicole Sohn, Journey Discovery Center

 

Who are you and your company?
Nicole Sohn, Executive Director at Journey Discovery Center

My passion for early learning began as a preschool teacher in Spokane, working with high risk children to instill a lifelong value around education. I work with early learning providers, educators and the business community to address access and affordability for families and businesses to high quality early learning. I have worked in early learning for 19 years as a teacher and Executive Director/owner of a preschool in Spokane, focusing on the impact high quality early learning has on the future success of children in our communities.

I am currently serving on Spokane-based Greater Spokane Incorporated’s (GSI) Board of Trustees and participate in coalitions and committees across the state to inform early learning policy. I will also be joining the Association of Washington Business (AWB) Board in the fall of 2019. I hold undergraduate degrees in both communication and children’s studies from Eastern Washington University and am currently obtaining my MBA from Gonzaga University.  My husband and I live in Spokane with our two sons.

What role/or industry do you represent in the STEM Executive Committee?
The STEM Executive committee allows me to connect the important work of early learning, specifically Early STEM, to the broader STEM conversation both locally and for Washington.  Because 90% of brain development happens between birth to 5 years old, being intentional around Early STEM is a key conversation to address intentional investment early for the biggest payoff long term for every child. 

What does STEM mean to you? And why do you feel STEM is important?
STEM is a critical component of our current birth-12 education system and our economy.  A focus on STEM education and skill sets will only continue to increase in its importance. Proactively preparing today’s children for a future with STEM in mind allows every child in Washington state to have diverse options as they enter our workforce. 

The opportunity that Early STEM offers children to reduce gaps in school-readiness and remove barriers for children and families furthest from opportunity will only continue to strengthen Washington’s economy now and in the future.

Looking ahead, what would 1-2 things would you like to see happen in Spokane?
1. Invest in Early STEM through supporting our local early learning programs where STEM education is currently happening, including child care, so that we see the biggest impact for kids and families today and build the best future economy.

2. Build deeper connections between our early learning, public and private, systems with our K-12 system for better communication and collaboration.

Why is it important to have a regional leadership team for statewide work?
Spokane is a great city to have a big impact and see results. Because of our size, we have created a well-connected community while also having the benefit of great leaders, industry and education.  Regional leaders from Spokane can give insight to a statewide network from both an urban and rural perspective, which is vital when considering the diverse people who live and work in all our communities.

What else should our STEM Community know?
Our teachers at Journey Discovery Center have had the amazing opportunity to create STEM kits inspired by our Spokane Libraries to allow families to take home STEM learning activities furthering Early STEM happening at our school and at home.