This week 22 teachers and administrators attended a two-day workshop on the T-STEM initiative at Little Cypress Mauriceville High School.  T-STEM stands for Texas-Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  The Texas legislature approved funds for the program in 2005 to fund schools implementing the curriculum.  Currently about 70 high schools are STEM funded in Texas.  The program strives to motivate and prepare more students for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

            Dr. Dean Fontenot of the T-STEM Academy at Texas Tech University led the workshop.  “We are working with teachers to help them learn about project-based learning, but especially the Texas-STEM initiative and engineering,” Dr. Fontenot said.  “All these teachers are from math, science, language arts, I think we have some social science people here.”  Through professional development trainings, T-STEM helps teachers engage kindergarten through 12th grade students in project-based learning that develops problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, communication, and other skills needed in the modern workforce, according to Fontenot.

            Teachers attending the workshop were divided into five groups or teams.  Dr. Fontenot then gave them a real project to find a solution or remedy going through the engineering process.  Each team had to work on a design to solve the problem assigned by Dr. Fontenot and then present it to the workshop and some real engineers invited to evaluate the results.

            The workshop was the idea of LCM High School principal Dr. Terri Estes.  The impact of T-STEM, Estes believes, will be significant for the teachers attending the workshop.  “Kids need to learn how to work together in teams and to solve the problems that are going to come at them in the future, and this prepares our teachers to give them real world applications for the skills that they need,” Dr. Estes said.  “The teachers are doing a great job and they’re enthusiastic about it, and I think it will have a positive impact not only on our teachers and our students, but on the community when they take those skills out into the workplace,” summarized Dr. Estes.

-Dan Perrine, KOGT-