Hawking STEAM Charter School, named after theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, teaches most of its subjects through the lens of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. With two locations, Hawking STEAM Charter 1 is located off E Street in Chula Vista, and Hawking Steam Charter 2, in South San Diego by the Iris Trolly Station. Both schools have around 1,200 K-8 students currently, although the charter is K-12. Each school serves slightly different populations, both locations use the same curriculum and guidelines for instruction.
Laura Carbajal, student achievement and programs coordinator for both Hawking schools began her journey with Hawking as a fifth grade teacher six years ago, one year after the school opened its doors in Chula Vista. Since, she has held the positions as an instructional coach providing support for teachers in the classroom, moved on to become assistant principal, then served as principal for three years before taking her new position. Currently, she creates systems that support students by analyzing data about performance, needs and opportunities.
Growing up in South Bay, Carbajal went to San Ysidro schools, and when she finished her own education, came back and worked for seven years as an elementary and middle school teacher in San Ysidro before moving on to Hawking.
“My passion is about this community and ensuring that people know that it is not what is sometimes perceived because it is a low-income community, a transient community because we are right next to the border. It is about what we can achieve, making sure our kids have a worldwide perspective of their options,” she said.
Carbajal said Hawking is not just STEAM, but is about integration of all subjects, not just reading and math.
“We do so in a way that is engaging, project based, making the most with the time we have with the students by integrating those other subject matters that are going to engage, and going to be accessible to all students regardless of their academic ability,” she said. “We want students to feel safe, so we focus a lot on social emotional learning, ensuring that we are teaching the whole child. That is what mostly makes us different.”
Carbajal’s two boys, Eric, an eighth grader, who began at Hawking in second grade, and Alan, a fifth grader who has attended since kindergarten. She said she believes that it is sometimes difficult for them having her there as an administrator and “navigating” their own relationships, but they have tried to make sure that her children are not treated any differently from the other students.
“For me, it is about seeing what they bring home with them and the conversations that we have at home because of what they are learning at school,” she said. “Whether it be an upcoming project, some of their expos that they do twice a year, or a topic they were having a conversation about in class. I am usually surprised at some of the passion they present themselves with when it comes to ideas about the environment, culture, and science. That is what is really rewarding to me to know that if they are coming home with these conversations, then the rest of the kids are also having those conversations at home.”
Carbajal said for those interested in sending their children to Hawking, there is much information on its website, parents can stop by the school, or give the school a call at either site they are interested in.
“We do have a waitlist, so we do receive an interest enrollment for to document their interest,” she said.