Preparing Stellar STEM Educators

Teaching & Lifelong Learning

From a long history as a teachers college, Texas State University understands the importance of preparing educators who can inform and inspire. A key component of this goal is ensuring that teachers at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through college, are equipped with the best instructional methods, the highest-quality information, and the knowledge of how their subject connects to the world outside the classroom — perhaps even outside our galaxy.

In 2014, the university was awarded a $15 million grant to provide headquarters and coordination for the NASA Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Educator Professional Development Collaborative. The NASA STEM EPDC is a multi-year project committed to national excellence by training new STEM educators and supporting the existing STEM teacher workforce. Texas State’s LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research was chosen as the home of the program.

Dr. Ortiz speaking to a group of children
Dr. Araceli Martinez Ortiz - College of Education - LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research

Texas State education specialists work at NASA research centers including:

Goddard Space Flight Center

Johnson Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

mars rover
young students looking at a computer

Education specialists at Texas State have developed content and lesson plans for use in STEM classrooms throughout the country. 34,209 educators were impacted in 2016, and the program is expected to reach over 400,000 by the end of 2019. “NASA really thrives if people understand the work that it does, why exploration and investigation in all areas of science are important, and how science at a very high level affects society,” explains Dr. Araceli Martinez Ortiz, executive director of the LBJ Institute and associate research professor of engineering education at Texas State. “That means not just letting the public know what NASA does, but also supporting what we do: improving STEM instruction and advancing the workforce pipeline by developing more teachers who are well-prepared and understand real-world contexts of science and math.”

Educators who have been involved have seen a change in their classrooms. “I no longer introduce a topic in my math class without an incredible lesson or video from NASA or about NASA,” says Michael Bresk, a high school geometry and algebra teacher in Live Oak, Florida, who recently spoke with the LBJ Institute. “I have become more of a let-my-students-explore math teacher, and there have been many more moments where my students say ‘Aha, I get it.’”

Texas State was chosen for NASA’s STEM EPDC program partially because of its status as a minority-serving institution. The program hopes to provide a leg up for students who “may be from disadvantaged backgrounds or who are members of groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields.” Texas State University is home to a diverse campus community where minorities make up 53 percent of the student body, 37 percent of which is Hispanic. Texas State University is recognized by the federal government as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), the largest HSI in Texas, and ranks among the top 20 universities in the nation for the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students. 

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