About STEM Library Lab
“SLL affords me the opportunity to create a rich, hands-on learning environment for my students… where they can construct and manipulate materials to make sense of their world.”
Kelly Davidson, Phyllis Wheatley Community School
STEM Library Lab fosters high-quality active learning by providing teachers with access to equipment, programs, experiences and STEM instructional support to drive student success.
Students in every classroom have exposure to quality educational experiences that prepare them for a 21st Century future.
Our Commitment to racial and educational equity
STEM Library Lab was founded by two white people, one from Metairie, but neither of whom grew up or went to high school here, with a mission of improving STEM education in K-12 public schools, this meant serving a primarily black audience. From the outset, we have been cognizant of the inherent disconnect, and so have actively adopted strategies and sought counsel from others to ensure that racial equity is embedded in our operations, rather than simply our impact mission.
In our hiring practices, we ensure that positions are accessible to people of all races through deliberate open recruitment, and to date 50% of our hired positions are people of color, as well as the majority of our contractors and local vendors.
Our five-member board is currently 80% female and 60% BIPOC, and as we grow and roll on new members, we commit to a board that is racially representative of the city-wide demographics, which is 60% black and 35% white. The board has two named leadership positions, one of whom is a person of color.
In addition to the board we have one advisory committee comprised of 8 members, half of whom are black and 6 of whom are female.
With regard to our programming and our impact mission, we have been deliberate in the schools with which we pursue affiliation, specifically that we are focusing on teachers at schools that are under-resourced or which serve low-income student populations. Our data bears this out; the majority of our teacher borrowers work in schools that serve majority free-and-reduced-lunch students, and our teacher demographics are representative of the demographics of teachers city-wide in terms of race, gender, age, and experience.
SLL is posting this information because given the civic discourse around police and citizen brutality and the murder of innocent black people, there are open concerns surrounding organizations with white leadership serving black people, which are valid. If you have chosen to read this, we welcome pushback on our progress, and feedback on how we can do better. There are no race-neutral decisions; racism affects everyone, and we strive to acknowledge this in ourselves in order to combat it. But we also hope that, had we left this information unsaid, if you have worked with STEM Library Lab, you could feel our commitment to racial equity and how we have been intentional in embedding anti-racist tactics into our organization’s structure, as well as our commitment to do more.
STEM Library Lab was founded in 2016 by Todd Wackerman:
I spent 6 years teaching high school physics and algebra in New Orleans and Brooklyn, and during that time, access to equipment was among my greatest challenges. My second year, I prepared an acceleration lab for physics using a series of rain gutters, stopwatches, and baseballs. While students were engaged, our results were unusable due to the imprecision of the tools. The correct tool was an electronic motion sensor and dynamics kit, but a class set costs over $3,000. The company was kind enough to sell me a single old floor model at discount, and my students were able to experience at least a demo of the concept. This experience in particular set me on the path to imagine and eventually create STEM Library Lab, as a way to provide this resource for teachers and students and to bring active learning opportunities to life in our public school classrooms.
When I left the classroom in June 2016, I reconnected with an old friend, Sarah Cosse, who had been working in nonprofit management for the past few years and was eager to take on a new challenge. Together, we co-founded STEM Library Lab, and aside from disagreements on the correct number of spaces at the end of a sentence, the rest was history. Well, history still in the making, hopefully with your help along the way!
Team & Board of Directors
Maria Landrum - Service Learning Manager
Maria Landrum – Service Learning Manager
Maria Landrum originally hails from Shreveport, Louisiana, and fell in love with New Orleans while attending Loyola University.
She holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Louisiana State University and has worked in public libraries for the past nine years. Maria began her career as a children’s librarian in Jefferson Parish. Besides sharing her love for reading through weekly storytimes, she developed a range of children’s programs such as drawing workshops and STEM activities. Maria later joined New Orleans Public Library as a branch manager and continued producing programs — for all ages — before becoming head of the library’s Programming and Outreach department.
Maria is thrilled to join STEM Library Lab and to help empower teachers and educate children in the Greater New Orleans area.
Robin Martin - Marketing Coordinator VISTA
Robin Martin – Marketing Coordinator VISTA
Robin, like most New Orleanians, comes from a musical family: her great-grandfather Kid Thomas Valentine of Preservation Hall, her father, Rogers Martin, who has played drums in most of the clubs in New Orleans and her uncle, Wilson “Willie Tee” Turbinton of The Wild Magnolias and Willie Tee & the Gators. She is a graduate of McDonogh 35, where she learned to play saxophone, bass clarinet, and trombone. She then took her talents to Virginia, where she marched for the Norfolk State University Spartan Legion on full music & academic scholarships, graduating with honors.
After working for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in North Carolina, Robin decided to take the community/ grassroots organizing skills she learned there and help her city’s severely neglected school band programs. She helped co-found the New Orleans Legacy Association of Bands, where she served as president from 2013-2019. She has also worked as Program Coordinator for House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, partnering with local school and community organizations to help young people explore careers in the music industry, both on stage & off. She has experience with social media management, including how to properly market brands using social media.
She is excited about becoming our Marketing Coordinator and looks forward to working and growing with STEM Library Lab!
Karen Marshall - Director of Professional Development
Karen Marshall has been teaching science for 17 years. She graduated from Xavier University New Orleans with a bachelors in biology and a chemistry minor. She also received her teaching license from Xavier through the Alternate Route Program. She began her teaching career in New Orleans, but has experience as a teacher leader in Mississippi as well. Throughout her career she’s worked with students of all ages. For the past 7 years she’s been educating 8th grade students at the International School of Louisiana. As a veteran science teacher, with a passion for her career and subject, she has expanded her time to be the Science Curriculum Coordinator and Coach.
As the State standards have begun to change to phenomenon based learning with a focus on project based teaching, Ms. Marshall has been leading the lower school students and teachers in this pursuit of collaborative change; while continuing to inspire her 8th grade scientists. Karen is a member of the Redbeans crew and has been for the three years.
This past year she has received the District award from Shell and NSTA’s lab challenge and the Chairman award from American Petroleum Institute.
Ariana Newman - Fundraising Coordinator VISTA
Born and raised in New Orleans, Ariana A. Newman has been immersed in the city’s unique culture from birth. After graduating from University of New Orleans in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in History and minor in Theater, Ariana moved to Chicago to train at The Second City, the world’s most famous comedy club. Also while in Chicago, she earned a Master of Arts in History from Roosevelt University. In August of 2016, Ariana produced her first successful fundraising event, Summer Friends, an improvisational comedy show to benefit Black Lives Matter Chicago organization. Summer Friends became the most successful one-night fundraising event in Second City’s history raising over $10,000.
In 2018, Ariana moved back home to pursue a PhD in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans. While working on her doctorate, Ariana founded, 1735 Construction, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering disadvantaged populations. In 2019, Ariana curated 504 DAY, an annual event held on May 4 (5/04) to celebrate the City of New Orleans. Ariana is elated to join the team at STEM Library Lab as the Fundraising Coordinator!”
Monique Pilie - Director of Operations
Monique Pilié – Director of Operations
Monique was born and raised in New Orleans. After seeing the destruction from Hurricane Katrina, she started a non-profit to help replace the 100,000 trees that were lost in New Orleans due to the storm. To that end, she started Hike for Katreena, with the goal of planting one tree in New Orleans for each of the 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail. In the months after the storm, she quit her job, sold her house and hiked all 2,175 miles of the Trail and started planting trees in New Orleans. In five years, Hike for Katreena planted over 8,000 trees. Monique then handed over the leadership role of the organization. Monique then began working with All Hands Volunteers, a non-profit that responds to natural disasters around the world. She started as a Team Leader and worked her way up to Director of US Recovery and Repair for All Hands Volunteers. Wanting to contribute more to city she grew up in, Monique accepted the position of Executive Director of Louisiana Green Corps, where she helped young adults on their path to employment. Monique is excited to have recently accepted the role of Director of Operations with STEM Library Lab and is looking forward to helping empower educators!
Szabolcs Varga - STEM Librarian
Szabolcs “Szabi” Varga – STEM Librarian
Szabolcs was born in Budapest, Hungary and immigrated to the United States in 1989. His grandmother was a lifelong elementary educator behind the iron curtain. He attended Sophie B. Wright Middle School and graduated from McMain High School in New Orleans. Having attended schools in three countries and two states – the lack of funding, equipment and opportunities made an indelible impact on his life’s work.
Szabi received his undergraduate degree in Fine Art from LSU and a Masters in History from Southeastern Louisiana University while working as a graduate assistant. He was a mentor teacher who taught 3rd-8th grade Science, Math, ELA and Social Studies for nine years in Orleans, Jefferson, and Tangipahoa parishes. Szabi was also a Louisiana Teacher Leader presenting at the Teacher Leader conference, a LEAP Test review committee member, and a STEM summer camp coordinator.
Szabi is delighted to join the STEM Library Lab to assist teachers by helping to find the perfect tools for their classrooms to create lifelong learners.
Todd Wackerman - Executive Director
Todd Wackerman is the founder and director of STEM Library Lab, a local equipment share resource center in New Orleans. He taught Physics and a variety of other STEM subjects at public schools in New Orleans and Brooklyn from 2010-2016.
Todd received his MBA from Tulane’s Freeman School of Business, an MAT in Science Education from the University of New Orleans, and his from BA from Boston College in Political Science and History. He feels most comfortable when surrounded by books or trees. He once finished 11th to last in the Boston Marathon. Prior to teaching, he worked as a program manager and project coordinator for corporate volunteerism at two nonprofits, and has extensive volunteer experience with local nonprofits including Crescent City Farmers’ Market and Youth Run NOLA.
Todd has worked in various roles in schools and universities all across the country, including California, Massachusetts, Louisiana and New York. Building from those experiences, he is excited to be founding STEM Library Lab and helping teachers to improve the quality of their classroom experiences.
Cobren Greer - Board Chair
Educator/ Spark Mindset / New Orleans, LA
Cobren is a proud alumna of Wellesley College. During her time in Massachusetts, she volunteered with a college access program called Bridging the Gap (BTG). Her work with BTG piqued her interest in education and working with youth. She later worked with MIT’s MOSTEC science program and became passionate about helping students pursue careers in the STEM fields. In 2013 Cobren joined Teach for America and moved to New Orleans to begin her science teaching career. After six years of teaching, Cobren transitioned to Livingston Collegiate where she ran the school’s dual enrollment courses and CTE curriculum as the Manager of External programs. She is dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to an excellent education in high school and beyond and currently serves as Board Chair for the Stem Libray Lab. In her spare time, Cobren enjoys gardening, traveling, kayaking on the bayou, and cheering on her favorite team, the New Orleans Saints.
Sarah Cosse - Board Secretary
The founding board chair of SLL, Sarah Cosse brings a wealth of experience in non-profit administration and organizational expansion. With more than a decade of experience in the non-profit sector, Sarah has provided leadership in human resources, federal grant administration, fundraising, and project and financial management. Sarah has worked for both grassroots non-profits, as well as larger entities, including The National WWII Museum, SBP (formerly St Bernard Project), HandsOn New Orleans, and the University of Virginia. Sarah holds a BA from the University of Virginia and is a Board Member for the Tulane / Canal Neighborhood Development Corporation in addition to her role with SLL.
Lindsay Carter - Board Member
Lindsay Carter serves as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Warren Easton Charter School in New Orleans. As the CFO she is member of the school’s leadership team and plays a key role in enabling the organization to achieve its mission and operate efficiently. She leads and coordinates the organization’s investment policies (including due diligence and management), coordinating the annual audit, and implementing financial policies and procedures necessary to ensure organizational financial compliance. Her work includes identifying major sources of revenue available to Warren Easton through local, state, and federal funding as well as exploring alternative and innovative revenue sources.
Her recent work includes developing opportunities to provide all staff members with a transparent understanding of the school’s financial practices and decision making as a tool for reaching the school’s overall mission. Prior to joining Warren Easton, Carter spent 10 years with the Orleans Parish School Board working to improve budget guidelines, coordinating, and preparing the general and enterprise funds, as well as managing capital projects budgets. Her previous accounting work was with the accounting firm Alvarez and Marsal. Lindsay has earned her bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Xavier University of Louisiana. She enjoys spending time with her daughter who attends a charter school in New Orleans.
Michelle Hewlett Sanchez - Board Member
Dr. Michelle Sanchez is a Senior Professor of Practice and the Director of the Center for K-12 STEM Education in the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering. She is native New Orleanian and joined the Tulane faculty in 2012.
As the Director of the Tulane Center for K-12 STEM Education, she aims to connect Tulane and the New Orleans community, engage local students through hands-on experiences in STEM, and inspire confidence in the next generation of leaders and learners.
She also coordinates the Tulane Science Scholars Program, which brings exceptional 11th–12th grade students to Tulane for for-credit summer classes with Tulane faculty and graduate students while having the opportunity to live on campus. In addition, she is the Director of Tulane’s two middle school programs – Girls in STEM at Tulane (GiST) and Boys At Tulane in STEM (BATS), which brings 5th–7th grade students to campus to meet and work with role models in STEM fields by doing hands-on activities.
She also serves as Fair Director for the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair, helps coordinate the FIRST Lego League and FIRST Robotics competitions for Louisiana, and serves on the board of the Greater New Orleans STEM Initiative.
STEM Library Lab
3011 N I-10 Service Rd E
Metairie, LA 70002
Note: we have moved and are no longer on St Bernard Ave
Monday-Thursday 2:00-6:00 pm
Friday 2:00-5:00 pm
Monday-Friday 10:00 am-4:00 pm