Island University Hosts ME by the SEa, STEM Professional Development Conference

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Eager to expand their educational toolbox and gain a renewed sense of excitement about teaching, more than 160 established educators and future instructors from 26 local school districts and five universities attended the 14th annual regional professional development conference for STEM education, ME by the SEa. The conference, hosted by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on June 15, provided pre-k through college-level educators with access to experts from a wide range of specialties, along with active opportunities to learn new teaching skills.

Valente Mena, who is working toward a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, attended a session called Flipped Classroom – which is a classroom that inverts traditional teaching methods delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom and moving activities, like homework, into the classroom.

ME by the SEa was a great investment,” Mena said. “If you don’t invest in continuing education, you aren’t going to flourish as a teacher. Conferences like this are an excellent opportunity to meet other educators, to implement their successes and learn from their failures.”

Mena, who recently retired after 21 years with the U.S. Army Infantry, will start his new career as a math teacher at Rockport-Fulton Middle School in the fall.

Dr. Faye Bruun, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Learning Sciences, has been involved with ME by the SEa since its inception in 2005.

“We started as a math education conference, then added science and now we recently included STEM education,” shared Bruun. “We want teachers to experience how the subjects are interrelated, including robotics and computer science.”

The conference featured more than 40 sessions, some with interesting names such as “She Sorts Sea Shells by the Seashore,” “Zombie Apocalypse I: STEM of the Living Dead with TI-84 Plus” and “Girls Aren’t Interested in STEM…or Are They?”

Participants of “Girls Aren’t Interested in STEM…or Are They?” focused on how instructors can nurture girls in STEM fields. Attendees looked at current research, proposed action steps and learned how they as teachers provide support, opportunities and reinforcement that is meaningful to girls and young women, especially those who are members of underrepresented communities.

“Every day, the way we look at education changes. We gain new technology or new information that adds to our teaching pedagogy,” shared Georgina Mortera, a K-5 school teacher at Incarnate Word Academy who attended ME by the SEa.

During the “She Sorts Sea Shells by the Seashore” session, participants examined sea shells using dichotomous keys, which are tools that allow users to determine the identity of items in the natural world. Using sand buckets and sea shells, educators modelled techniques that could be applied in the classroom to promote hands-on, minds-on learning. “Zombie Apocalypse I: STEM of the Living Dead with TI-84 Plus” taught participants more about the free resources available on the Texas Instruments (TI) website that help prepare students to take the SAT, ACT and AP exams.

“In education, we are moving toward using more technology within the classroom and I’d like to find different ways to approach STEM that engages the students,” said Yda Aleman, a teacher at St. Gertrude Catholic School in Kingsville, who attended the conference in pursuit of innovative ideas. “I plan to use a lot of the methods presented to give students a chance to think critically and outside-of-the-box.”

The conference is a collaboration between the College of Education and Human Development at A&M-Corpus Christi and the Coastal Council of Teachers of Mathematics.