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Area teachers participate in first NMSU STEM Outreach Center professional development

The STEM Outreach Center, housed in the New Mexico State University College of Education, hosted its first virtual kick-off professional development Aug. 22 for K-6 teachers who will be teaching virtual out-of-school time (OST) programs this fall.


About 200 educators attended the online event, including teachers from the Gadsden Independent School District, Las Cruces Public Schools and Hatch Valley Schools.

“The New Mexico Public Education Department has been extremely supportive of our OST programs throughout this public health emergency. Our goal is to continue to mirror what districts are doing and provide support with quality programs that are accessible to students online,” said Sara Morales, associate director of the STEM Outreach Center.

As a general guideline, schools will provide about eight hours of non-regular academic and enrichment support each week, including the Homework Help program, physical activity and implementation of STEM activities or electives.

Ten sessions were offered to enhance instructors’ knowledge of the curriculum sessions they will teach. These sessions included COUNT, DiMA, GROW, Math Fluency, Math Snacks, Readers Theater K-3, SEMAA K-3, SEMAA 6, Electives and Homework Help. Information on these sessions can be found at https://stem.nmsu.edu.

Before the virtual learning sessions, teachers received curriculum kits with all the necessary materials and supplies they will need for effective implementation. These supplies will be distributed to students to support hands-on learning at home while connecting to instructors through virtual platforms.

Optional sessions were offered as a secondary phase of the professional learning, such as Canvas, Google Classroom and Zoom Basics as well as how to engage students in online learning, and supporting social-emotional learning in virtual formats. The STEM Outreach Center partnered with LCPS and NMSU faculty to design some of the sessions.

“We are thankful to faculty like Dr. Lauren Cifuentes, who shared various resources on student-centeredness and participatory online activities. She also offered recommendations on how teachers can handle the pressure of virtual teaching and learning while taking care of their own health which is so important at the moment” said Wanda Bulger-Tamez, director of the STEM Outreach Center.

Instructors will be asked to complete a survey for the sessions they attended, and to provide feedback and request additional support. Follow-up online professional learning and support is planned to support specific needs of instructors as schools delve into creating engaging online learning experiences for students.