A recent 2014 Arizona Western College graduate, Fernanda Diaz, had the experience of a lifetime by attending the NASA Johnson Space Center Pre-service Teacher Institute in Houston, TX from June 22-27.
Fernanda was accepted into the program just before completing her Associate’s in Elementary Education with Early Childhood emphasis from AWC. The program is designed for pre-service teachers who want to better prepare themselves to teach the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Fernanda was selected for the program after submitting an application and two lengthy essays. Once selected, she began taking webinars for the program a month prior to going on the trip. About 50 participants from all over the United States were selected for the program. This was the first time that Fernanda had ever traveled, so she was thrilled that it was to the NASA Johnson Space Center for a week.
Fernanda gives credit for this amazing opportunity to one of her AWC professors, Karen Spencer, for showing her the information about the program. Professor Spencer said “I’ve had Fernanda for several education classes and it is so evident that she has found her purpose and passion: teaching young children. Fernanda is such a hard working, interested and devoted student, so when she heard about this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to learn more about teaching science in the classroom, it didn’t surprise me that she quickly jumped on it. I was absolutely delighted when she told me she got accepted into the program.”
Throughout the program, the participants were given huge amounts of NASA resources that could be used in the classroom to motivate students in pursuing the science subjects. They were also taught how to plan lessons in a way that would engage students, making them think critically, and have them actually want to dig deeper into the subject. This was called the 5E lesson plan and it is versatile to any subject.
“The thing I got most out of the learning process is that as teachers, we are our students biggest motivators and that by using the tools we are given, they will want to learn and pursue their educational dreams. I am not a science-orientated student myself and I think that results from not having science teachers in my k-12 schooling that truly made me want to learn. With this experience, I feel more comfortable and motivated to be that teacher that even though a certain subject isn’t my stronghold, I can hopefully give my students all the tools to want to learn.” said Fernanda.
Fernanda’s favorite part of the trip was getting to collaborate with future educators from all over the United States. “I got to see how the education system differs from state to state, but yet we are all there for the same reason, to inspire students! I made great friends and I learned just as much from them as I did from our program coordinators/ presenters.”
Fernanda was born in Yuma and has lived in Yuma all 20 years of her life. She began taking AWC classes during the summer after her freshman year in high school (2008) and started going full time to AWC in 2012. Since graduating in May 2014, Fernanda has been working on getting employed as an instructional aid so that she can gain more experience in the classroom before completing her Bachelor’s. She hasn’t decided where she will get her Bachelor’s from in the future, but she plans to get it in Elementary Ed/Early Childhood.
“I’m thrilled AWC could have such a deserving student show up at NASA in Houston to represent the high quality individuals that come out of our community and our college,” said Professor Spencer.