Professional Development
January 20, 2017

Educators learn about importance of communications and arts in STEAM

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Communications
SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition
Caption: Juliana Potts (left) of the Scotia-Glenville Teachers Association and Catherine Choi of the Watervliet Teachers Association participate in one of the workshops. Photo by Marty Kerins, Jr.

Nearly 20 graduates of past SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition sessions attended last weekend’s follow-up forum, hosted by NYSUT at its Latham headquarters.

Keynoter John Kent, vice president for program management at GlobalFoundries in Saratoga County, presented the history, current state and a glimpse into the future of New York’s high-tech industry and the employment possibility for today’s students.

“I like to view students as time travelers,” said Kent, adding that, in their lifetime, today’s students will see extraordinary technological developments.

Kent discussed the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) and their importance within four of the career domains of the high-tech industry: research and engineering, the core of the manufacturing and technology; production and logistics, creation and manufacturing; safety and environmental; and business, such as management and marketing.

Video by Leslie Duncan Fottrell

“One of the dangers of technology is the alienation of the people who use it,” said Kent. Communication and the arts are critical components to the success of high-tech products because they allow the complexities of the high-tech industry to be translated into more easily understood concepts, analogies and visual designs. “Art is important because you need to use visual communication to explain what the technology is. “

Angel Tudor, a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher and member of the Whitehall Teachers Association, asked what three things educators could do to prepare students for high-tech careers.

“Keep them on track to take pre-calculus,” answered Kent. “Make sure they get chemistry and biology as early as possible. And make sure they get arts and communications. “

“Each time I attend a workshop I learn more about the industry,” said Erika Robert, a high school math teacher, department chair and Schoharie Teachers Association member. “It validates why I am doing this and why I am encouraging kids to stay in math and science.” Robert coordinates an annual STEAM event for her school.

“This experiment shows how a difference in surface area affects a chemical reaction,” said Catherine Choi, as she prepared to pour liquid into an oversized beaker with an Alka-Seltzer tablet in it, in the small particles workshop. Choi is a high school guidance counselor and a member of the Watervliet Teachers Association.

Choi’s work as a guidance counselor is a little unusual. “I teach a class and I run the ‘pivot’ program for 9th graders at my school.” One aspect of this grant-funded program is that approximately 50 students at a time — about half of the 9th grade class — visit colleges on a rotating basis.

Participants shared how they have been using in their classrooms what they learned at SEMI High Tech U. Helen Rodney, a United Federation of Teachers retiree member, said she plans to use scratch coding as part of a professional development workshop in New York City.

NYSUT members received an overview of the SEMI High Tech U Lending Library. Five Statapults and two Gates Human Calculator mats can be checked out through an online form. Once checked out, the items can be picked up and dropped off at NYSUT headquarters in Latham from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Friday.

The SEMI High Tech U Teacher edition program is now in its 10th year with NYSUT as one of the supporters. The teacher edition is a, two-day, hands-on professional development experience that gives teachers the tools and knowledge they need to get students career and college ready. Plans are underway for the NYSUT-hosted summer edition. Look for details on how to apply in upcoming editions of NYSUT United and at, or contact your local president for information.

For inspiration on how art, design and communication can make a complex high-tech topic interesting and accessible to everyone, watch the video “Transistors: Teeny Tech that Changed the World” at, by Kent’s daughter Abigail. It is also a wonderful high-tech primer for students.


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