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 academic success by providing teachers and students with access to equipment and support for high-quality active learning.
Every child has the opportunity to discover their passion for STEM and pursue a brighter 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 60% white and 60% female, 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 three 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
Todd Wackerman and Sarah Cosse manage the day to day operations of STEM Library Lab. Learn about the STEM team, and meet the STEM Library Lab board of directors.
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.
Melina Diaz - Operations and Fund Raising Coordinator
Melina Diaz – Tulane Center for Public Service AmeriCorps Vista – Operations and Fundraising Coordinator
For the past two years, Melina has lived among sheep and horses in rural Kyrgyzstan. She was serving there with Peace Corps as a secondary education teacher/trainer, where she conducted workshops, clubs, and camps for local administrators, educators, and students. She received her BA in Integrated Communication from the University of Houston and plans to continue her studies in Fall 2021 at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. During undergrad, she worked extensively with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, sang with the internationally acclaimed Moores School Concert Choral, and interned with Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. While born and raised in Houston, Texas, Melina is absolutely thrilled to move to a new metropolitan and experience all that New Orleans has to offer.
Callie Oliver - Science Librarian & Events Coordinator
Callie Oliver – Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps – STEM Librarian and Events Coordinator
Callie is a New Orleans native and avid enthusiast of Louisiana wildlife. She graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Biology and Anthropology from Tulane University (2019). Having taught science and English abroad in Thailand, Callie is familiar with the struggles many teachers face to access the important resources their students need. She is passionate about supporting historically under-resourced schools in New Orleans and making teachers’ jobs easier so they can focus on the vital work of advancing and inspiring their students. Throughout all her work – at STEM Library Lab and beyond – she is dedicated to promoting racial equity in New Orleans’ education system and encouraging more students of color to pursue careers in STEM or wherever their craziest goals may take them.
Sean Moore - Resource Center Coordinator
Sean Moore – Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps – Resource Center Coordinator
Born and raised in New Orleans, Sean is joining the STEM Library Lab during a period of transition that he is all too familiar with. He received his BS in Civil Engineering from LSU in 2015, and began working as a Municipal Engineering Intern designing and managing community water and sewer systems throughout Louisiana. After deciding this work didn’t fulfill his passions, he began working as a Live Events Video Technician in 2018. He helped build, manage, and operate large events such as FIRST Robotics World Championships, Essence Festival, and many more. After the pandemic shut live events down, Sean decided to pursue a different line of work at STEM Library Lab, wanting to focus on his passions for community building and racial equity. He is currently enrolled in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate Program at UNO. He enjoys reading, playing chess, shooting photos and videos, and hanging with his cat, Jiji!
Sarah Cosse - Board Chair
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.
Cobren Greer - Board Secretary
Educator/ Livingston Collegiate High School / New Orleans, LA
Cobren is a proud alumna of Wellesley College. During her time in Massachusetts, she worked with MIT’s MOSTEC science program and became passionate about helping students pursue careers in the STEM fields. Cobren utilized resources from the STEM Library Lab (SLL) in her own classroom and understands firsthand the impact SLL has made in increasing the quality of STEM instruction in New Orleans classrooms. She is dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to an excellent education in high school and beyond. Cobren taught science for five years as well as a college success course for juniors at Livingston Collegiate. She is still working at Livingston Collegiate, now as their Manager of External Programs.
Karianne Chassee - Board Member
Karianne leads the Louisiana practice for EdOps, a full-service finance, operations, and strategic consulting provider to the K-12 public school sector.
Karianne has been working in education in New Orleans since 2013 in the areas of finance, human resources, and operations. Prior to her career in education, Karianne worked in public accounting, where she served a wide variety of clients, from large public entities to local non-profit organizations. She is both a Certified Public Accountant and a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional and holds a Master’s degree in Accounting from Louisiana State University.
Karianne is thrilled to serve on the board of STEM Library Lab and help grow its impact on local education!
Karen Marshall - Board Member
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.
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.
The New Orleans Advocate, 08/09/2019, by Celeste Turner, photo by Chris Granger - Much the same way that a card-carrying member can walk into a public library and come out with a book, teachers can walk into the STEM Library Lab in Gentilly and borrow everything from...read more
St. Charles Magazine, 01/31/2020, by Lindsay Mack, Photos by Cheryl Gerber While working as a science teacher in New Orleans, Todd Wackerman faced a common dilemma: lab materials are often outside the school’s budget. To help other educators facing a similar issue,...read more
Biz New Orleans, 03/01/2019, by Ashley McLellan - Careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) have been lauded for years as the path to the best jobs with the best pay, but when New Orleans math and science teacher Todd Wackerman tried to...read more
STEM Library Lab
3121 St. Bernard Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
Monday-Thursday 3:00-7:00 pm
Friday 3:00-5:00 pm
By appointment during the school day