By Mandi Enger
Melina Arriaza, a first-generation college student enrolled at Nevada State College (NSC) was accepted to participate in a weeklong training at the highly prestigious NASA Johnson Space Center Pre-Service Teacher Institute in Houston, Texas. Competing against undergraduate education students across the country, Arriaza was the only applicant chosen from the state of Nevada. A total of 31 students will attend the summer training June 24 June 30, 2012.
The Pre-Service Teacher Institute (PSTI) will provide hands-on opportunities for participants to expand their knowledge and skill in teaching the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects. Developed specifically for K-8 pre-service teachers, the program will additionally train attendees to incorporate NASA research, missions and findings into their own lesson plans and classroom activities.
Integrated curriculum in the STEM subjects is a developing focus area nationwide for primary grade-levels through higher education institutions. The workforce demand for job candidates in these high-tech fields is rapidly growing while the pool of qualified candidates is still relatively low.
The goals of STEM education include holding high expectations, creating instruction that is engaging, reducing achievement gaps, and preparing college and career ready students, said Roberta Kaufman, assistant professor of the NSC School of Education. It is an honor to have an NSC student selected to attend the workshop; it will be a wonderful learning opportunity for Melina that will transition into valuable career skills.
In 2011, Arriaza received her associate’s degree in special education from the College of Southern Nevada. She is currently enrolled at NSC working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and is additionally completing the coursework required for three endorsements including Teaching English as a Second Language, Bilingual Education, and Special Education.
Arriaza was inducted into the NSC chapter of the international honor society in education, Kappa Delta Pi in April of 2012 and is also a 4.0 student. Melina is strong in content and focused on working with a diverse student population including those with special education needs. She represents the caliber and enthusiasm of students enrolled in teacher education at NSC, continued Kaufman.
In the weeks leading up to the PSTI workshop, Arriaza will complete required preparation work including several reading assignments, online group discussions and even a quiz. Participants are also required to setup an e-portfolio that will be used to document and share their learned material throughout the week via photos and written reflections.
Students interested in applying to the NASA PSTI training were required to submit an essay, official transcripts, and recommendation letters from professors of education as well as math or science. Finalists were then asked to participate in a phone interview for final consideration. The process was open to junior or senior undergraduate education majors planning to work with elementary or middle school aged students.
Drawn to the program with an interest in improving her personal understanding of science as well as learning new teaching strategies specific to the subject, Arriaza is most looking forward to the hands-on science projects participants will take part in during the week’s trainings. Actually, working through the various science activities on my own and then discussing the learning process with other pre-service teachers will help me to in-turn teach the lessons more successfully to my students.
Upon completion of her degree programs, Arriaza is interested in working with special education students in either an elementary or high school setting in Southern Nevada. I’d also like to work in a school with a high population of bilingual learners, she added.
Undergraduate students completing the PSTI training will receive resource materials and curriculum for future classroom use that can be adapted by the participant to meet their specific state and grade level requirements. All resources provided by the PSTI align with national standards.