STEMmED People Make Me Proud

Make me proud of the joyful collaborative spirit that produced eight years of extraordinary life. Well, it’s time now to fold our dear project STEMmED (STEM EDucation) which has been running since 2009 in two editions separated by one year of self sustain. It’s not an easy process, this one, charged as it is of emotion and of pressure, because the project represents a focused, collaborative effort of a great group of people who believe in what they do.



STEMmED Collage, by Doribel Rodríguez.

STEMmED Collage. Image by Doribel Rodríguez.

This project has been a second home for all these years, and that means more than anything, the people I have been working with daily for so long. We won a federal US Dept. of Education HSI-STEM Grant in 2009 and another in 2011, so we have been working at this for over 8 years now, considering that the process of writing the Grant proposal began in early 2008.

Fascinating. This is what helped me stay mentally sane and hungry. I can certainly list the things we accomplished during the project’s tenure: lab remodeling, creation of learning spaces for students, course redesign, research, faculty improvement, school pipeline, student support services (tutoring, mentoring, labs), etc.

But what I’m particularly proud of is the fact we have sought to implement a model for learning centered around students. Look at the project design and sequencing: First we remodel labs, because within labs faculty and students can do pedagogical activities and research.

Concurrently we redesign courses, to take advantage of lab remodeling and the revamped faculty-mentored research students were beginning to do. The course redesign contains blogs, open blogging strategies and other Web 2.0 magic that reinforce the student-centered model. We then shake and complete the model by plugging in the school pipeline, with so many (over 1,500!) students from grades 10-12 we tended with tutorials, workshops, and other science and tech-related activities.

Plus, let’s not forget that students helped us in every imaginable way during this time: they have been working as assistants in admin, computing, research, tutoring and mentoring, and teaching. If this isn’t a student-centered model, I don’t know what is.

I am proud of that.

As part of the professional development activities we organized for faculty we had people of the caliber of Jim Groom, Mike Wesch, Alan Levine, Mario Núñez, Dolors Reig, Martha Burtis, Daniel Altschuler et al. come and visit us. That honors me, I mean the confidence vote these people made with us. With all, a friendship was borne and to date is bringing me happiness and growth, as well as to all our staff and collaborators and students.

Also, the participation of practically all faculty of our Science Department was a big motivation trigger. We began with a dispirited faculty and we grew together loving the research and the teaching and the novel things we were happy to concoct with them.

But I want to disclose fully what it has meant for me to work in this for so many years. The people around me. Students: It’s great to see them happy and making these spaces their own. Fantastic. Our three full-time employees, Aurelio Ceballos (flew away in December ’15), Gladys Chévere and Bernabé Soto. They have been uniquely good, professional and brave during these years. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and skills with us, guys! Bernabé has been instrumental in the course redesign process, media and instructional technology; while Gladys has been running everything smoothly all.the.time. Yes, and she also has been taking care of the financial component. I am in debt.

Also, working with Roberto Bouret, our superstar Maths tutor, made us and our students very happy. Roberto was a pillar of the House of Science, and a bit also a therapist for many students.

Last (but not least!) my dear Staff. I have been working side by side with these four guys  at all times. We have been sharing all decisions, all ideas, and of course, the good and the difficult moments. The stress and the happiness. I don’t want to be rhetorical but I lived through this thanks to Doribel Rodríguez, Mayra Alonso, María Lázaro and John Olmo. They devoted much more than their time, passion and energy and knowledge to this project and to my personal sanity. It’s been a pleasure!

Now, it’s my hope that students will continue to use the spaces we have built, and faculty enjoy a clearer, richer dialogue with students.

About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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