Grant from Google will help Federal Way schools expand STEM programs

Announcement was made during ribbon cutting for TAF@Saghalie

As the end of the school year approaches, Federal Way school officials joined community and business leaders Wednesday to celebrate a successful first year of the innovative TAF@Saghalie.

The school was formed last fall when TAF Academy – which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for students in sixth through 12th grade – merged with Saghalie Middle School, 33914 19th Ave. SW, to become TAF@Saghalie.

TAF Academy started in 2008 as a partnership between Federal Way Public Schools and the nonprofit Technology Access Foundation (TAF). The school previously consisted of portable classrooms adjacent to Totem Middle School.

As a result of the merger with Saghalie, TAF’s reach in Federal Way has increased from 300 students to more than 700.

“This has been a dream of ours to move into a space where kids actually can be in one building, not go from portable to portable, but more importantly where we can expand our work,” said Trish Dziko, TAF’s co-founder and executive director.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted Wednesday by the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, officials announced a $100,000 grant from Google, which will be used to help expand the STEM by TAF model to reach even more students.

Beginning this fall, the school district plans to enhance project-based STEM opportunities at Olympic View, Brigadoon, and Green Gables elementary schools, which are feeder schools for TAF@Saghalie.

The grant will help the district achieve its goals by providing professional development for teachers on the STEM by TAF academic model, providing full-time instructional coaching and part-time educational technology along with college readiness support and upgraded facilities to meet the needs of a 21st-century academic environment.

“That means we will impact the professional pipeline in a way that we never have before,” Dziko said. “From kindergarten all the way through 12th grade, kids will be ready to not only work for other people, but to start their own business.”

Geoffery McAnalloy, Federal Way school board vice president, said his three sons attend TAF@Saghalie.

“What has happened for them and their abilities to look at things from a different perspective than a normal six-hour day at school, this is a complete 180-degree turn from that,” he said.

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, students in Gabriel Diaz’ engineering class showed off the projects they have been working on this year.

Seventh-grader Zoryana Krysa shared how she and her classmates made a lamp in the engineering lab.

“We were able to see how to use laser cutters and see the difference between handmade and the laser cutter,” she said.

She said she has enjoyed the STEM by TAF model.

“I feel like when we do learning with experiments, we are able to understand it better than just listening to how things are done,” she said.

TAF has been recognized as a School of Distinction by the state for six years and has a graduation rate exceeding 95 percent, with almost 100 percent of student going on to college after graduation, Superintendent Tammy Campbell said.

“How many of you knew we had a school with those kind of numbers?” Campbell said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Zoryana Krysa, a seventh-grader at TAF@Saghalie, shows off a lamp she and her classmates designed in the STEM-focused school’s engineering lab. HEIDI JACOBS, the Mirror

Zoryana Krysa, a seventh-grader at TAF@Saghalie, shows off a lamp she and her classmates designed in the STEM-focused school’s engineering lab. HEIDI JACOBS, the Mirror