Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Physics
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
University of Texas at Austin
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Northeast Early College High School, Austin, TX, Introduction to Engineering Design, Engineering Design and Problem Solving
What made you decide to become a teacher?
Teaching was not something I saw myself doing when I was younger. From the age of 12, I always wanted to be an engineer and worked towards that goal by joining my school’s Science Olympiad and Robotics clubs. Being a part of these clubs taught me so much and made such an incredible impact on my life that I wanted to give that experience to other students. I started The Science Olympiad Alumni Association at UT Austin for former Science Olympiad competitors. Although we were once rivals, as alumni we came together to mentor middle and high school students interested in excelling in STEM. The more time I spent with these students, the more I began to realize that mentoring was something I loved doing. It offered a new challenge every day and allowed me to work “hands on” with students in a non-traditional setting. When I graduated, I debated my career path a lot. I spoke to my friends and family about my options and then finally talked to one of my mentees. I had asked him if he would be disappointed in me if I chose to become a teacher instead of an engineer. His told me “I’ve always seen you more as a teacher than an engineer.” That brought me great comfort. I applied for the UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin shortly after that.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I am currently an engineering teacher at Northeast Early College High School (Northeast ECHS), formerly Reagan High School, in Austin, Texas. I have the unique role of teaching both the entering freshman and exiting seniors in the Engineering Pathway Program. Every day is exciting in my classroom. While my freshmen are learning how to do 3D modeling in AutoCAD Inventor and building Maglev cars, my seniors are engineering their own design projects ranging from self-watering planters to autonomous lawnmowers! There are, however, challenges that we face in our community. Over 90% of our students are economically disadvantaged and 40% are English language learners. Though these circumstances alone are incredibly difficult to overcome, our students rise to the challenge every day. I believe that the engineering courses we offer are giving students a unique perspective of engineering that they would not have had otherwise. It’s allowing them to expand their understanding of the world and the possible career paths they can venture down later in life.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce program allowed me to focus my time on interning in engineering classrooms across several high schools in Austin. Gaining firsthand experience with not only the content I was interested in teaching, but also the students, prepared me for my teaching assignment. Engineering classrooms are rather different from other types of classes, and the student body is as well. Our students who have elected to take part in a four-year engineering pathway are doing hands-on work and are in groups 90% of the time. They learn through their failures in a way that is unique to engineering — not every class will allow you to break a bridge to learn about structural dynamics! At times, my classroom can look chaotic and stressful, but my students have learned to embrace failure because unlike in other classes, success is determined by effort and creativity and not whether the answer was correct.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
Through the UTeach program, I spent time in several elementary, middle, and high school classrooms delivering lessons to a diverse set of students. This allowed me to become familiar with the needs of a vast array of children. Additionally, it taught me how to use my own cultural background to form connections with students. Currently, I am teaching mostly low-SES Hispanic students and coming from a similar background has allowed me to not only understand their way of thinking but also how to meet them halfway.
Students move at different speeds when it comes to picking up new skills. I account for this by making all of my lessons available on our class website. I include video tutorials for each skill we learn, as well as multiple example problems, which can be revisited whenever the student needs to refresh knowledge. Having this structure in place has definitely helped during this COVID-19 crisis. My students entered online schooling already knowing where to find their assignments. I also have introduced PlayPosit© to ensure that students are actively watching the videos I have posted and not just passively listening to the audio. PlayPosit allows teachers to time-embed activities into videos. This has helped monitor student’s engagement as well as helped me better disseminate the most important information by asking targeted questions about the subject.
Before we left for online schooling, our school also offered flexible instruction time three days a week. During these 30-minute blocks, students could visit me in a small group setting to go over any questions they might have had about the content we covered. In place of this, during our online schooling, students have been able to schedule Zoom meetings, email or call me for one-on-one instruction. Though it’s not the same as seeing my students in person, their having the ability to contact me whenever they need me has been helpful for all of us.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
As a Noyce scholarship recipient at UT Austin, I accepted an internship in an engineering classroom that lead directly to my apprentice teaching position. I was able to use my scholarship award to pay for a year of my teaching certification program and focus my time on my internship instead of a part-time job. It allowed me to work a full year with the same set of students, modeling what teaching would be like during a full-time job. I was able to establish real relationships with my students and explore different ways of teaching. It also gave me time to engage with the engineering curriculum used at this school. This apprenticeship lead to my current position being created to increase the capacity of the engineering pathway program. The full year I was here because of Noyce has made my transition to becoming a full-time educator much smoother. I was already familiar with the types of students here and with the curriculum.
In addition to teaching, are you exploring new areas in content, teaching strategies, leadership, etc. If so, what areas and did the Noyce experience play a role?
Though this is my first year of teaching, I am always eager to learn something new. I am currently earning an advanced manufacturing certification from Austin Community College so that next school year my students can start earning the same certification. This summer I will also be taking two, two-week professional development courses in order to teach two new engineering courses.
I’ve found the following online resources helpful for me to enrich or supplement the curriculum:
- TeachEngineering: STEM Curriculum for K-12, a digital library of engineering curricular units developed by the University of Colorado,
- SolidProfessor, a resource for engineers and designers, and
- CrashCourseEngineering, a series of short videos on engineering topics.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
This year, I was selected as the Teacher of Promise at Northeast ECHS. This award is given to the first-year teacher who demonstrates exceptional dedication to their students and leadership in their community.