Professional Development
July 15, 2013

Teachers translate high-tech ideas into classroom learning

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
neira semi-tech high u
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira (left) talks tech with participants in the SEMI High-Tech U professional development program at NYSUT headquarters. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

George Reluzco, a technology teacher from the Mohonasen School District in Schenectady County, is spending the next few days plowing through a thick lab journal and numerous presentations on the semiconductor industry, microelectronics and alternative energy.

He came to NYSUT headquarters in Latham for the SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition “hoping to find resources to use in my classroom.” His district, he said, is planning to run a course in nanotechnology and alternative energy. Reluzco, a member of the Mohonasen Teachers Association who teaches engineering and manufacturing, is seeking curriculum ideas.

There is no shortage of ideas here, where 37 teachers are gathered to focus on math, science and technology as an introduction to nanotechnology and emerging technology. The STEM professional development program is for middle and high school teachers, along with guidance counselors. It is set up to share ideas that teachers can use in the classroom to expose students to these emerging technologies.

The yearlong initiative includes follow-up activities that will involve networking among teachers, higher education faculty, and global and industry leaders. This regional program is part of a worldwide initiative.

Maria Neira, NYSUT vice president who is a former third- and fourth-grade science teacher, said NYSUT’s SEMI High Tech U was developed six years ago so that schools could create programs in line with what the business world is looking for. It includes career explorations for students.

Neira also hopes the newer programs will keep girls interested in science and math, as many typically fall away from those subjects as they advance through school.

Monica Blanchfield, East Greenbush TA member, teaches high school physics. She came to the professional development program to “add some new labs to my curriculum and to guide students.”

“I’m trying to prepare kids for future careers,” added high school math teacher Terry Peters, a member of the Albany Public School TA. “I don’t think they know the things that are out there, and what’s available to them.”

In technology, for example, Peters said, there are jobs available for technicians - not every technology job requires advanced degrees.

“These are real careers, not just jobs,” she said.

Team challenges for participants included learning how to design a way for kids to eat applesauce on the go, without using utensils or making a mess; how to build, test and redesign a prototype to replace the plastic six-pack soda holder, which endangers wildlife; and exploring logic using gates and human calculators.

More than 300 educators have participated since NYSUT began its Semi High Tech U Teacher Edition. Neira noted that Linda Stanzyck, outgoing NYSUT Capital District regional staff director, envisioned the union-led program.

High Tech U is sponsored by NYSUT, Semi Foundation, Applied Materials, Hudson Valley Community College, Global Foundries, University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, National Grid, Schenectady County Community College, CED, TEC Smart, and TEL.

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