TEI Kicks Off its 2019 Summer of Science


By Chase Fordtran

Teacher Enrichment Initiatives (TEI) kicked off its 9th annual Summer Intensive (aka Summer of Science) on June 17th. The Summer of Science is host to the Teacher Enrichment Leadership Academy (TELA) leadership members. The TELA teacher leaders are selected through a rigorous application and interview process which allows the TEI staff to select the most qualified local educators to take part in the program. The TELA leadership also helps to facilitate yearly teacher professional development workshops, Science Nights, and the Annual Spring Conference. The Summer Intensive program allows the TELA leaders, with guidance from the TELA program director, Rosemary Riggs and TEI staff, to enhance TEI programs’ resources including but not limited to curriculum development and a wide variety of teacher professional development materials. Long story short, TEI has some of the most passionate educators in their TELA leadership!

BioMed SA

Ann Stevens, President of BioMed SA, presenting to the TEI/TELA team

To kick off the first week of the Summer of Science, TEI invited BioMed SA’s president, Ann Stevens, to give a presentation and Q&A over a working lunch. BioMed SA graciously provided the delicious lunch from Papoulis! BioMed SA is a San Antonio non-profit, membership-based organization, supported in part by the City of San Antonio. Their current mission statement is: “To accelerate growth of the healthcare and bioscience sector, create regional economic benefit, and contribute to the health of San Antonio and beyond by establishing San Antonio as a leader in healthcare and bioscience.” Ms. Stevens’ presentation highlighted the teacher’s role as a catalyst in their student’s potential STEM career journey and showed the often-overlooked rich diversity of San Antonio’s science and healthcare workforce sectors. TEI Research Coordinator, Kandi Grimes exclaimed, “Before Ms. Steven’s presentation I had no idea there was such an amazing array of science innovators right here in San Antonio!”. It truly was an eye-opening and inspiring day with BioMed SA.

Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed)

Dr. Eusondia Arnett talking to the TELA teachers about her Tuberculosis research

The next two days of the Summer Intensive were busy at Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed). Texas Biomed was founded in 1941 by Thomas Slick, Jr., and the current president and CEO is Dr. Larry Schlesinger. Texas Biomed is located on a 200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antonio. They have a staff of more than 350 employees and 65+ doctoral-level scientists who lead research projects in Disease Intervention & Prevention, Host-Pathogen Interaction, and Population Health. Texas Biomed is also the host institution of Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC). TEI has been lucky enough to have a longstanding relationship with Texas Biomed that allows our teachers to tour their facilities and engage with their researchers and staff on a yearly basis.

With the help of TBRI’s Communications staff, Lisa Cruz, Wendy Rigby, and Alex Wadley, this year’s Texas Biomed visit was the most immersive yet. The two-day Texas Biomed tour was designed to give teachers the opportunity to engage with various STEM professionals and support staff in their respective workspaces. The TELA teachers learned about specific STEM-related careers so they could better understand the pathways to these careers. Using these interactions, and after individually interviewing Texas Biomed scientists, the teachers wrote narratives that go beyond basic bios. In the coming months, these narratives will be shared via the TEI website with area teachers to increase teacher awareness of local STEM-related career opportunities available for their students.

TELA teacher, Juliana Berry, explains why the TEI trip to Texas Biomed was so essential to her, “As a teacher, my love for learning has driven me to seek out and explore the STEM possibilities and enhance my experiences through the outreach at TXBIOMED.” She explained, “I have gained a phenomenal understanding of the groundbreaking and vital science being done there for the betterment of mankind.”

Dr. Tim Anderson & Robbie Diaz talking to the TELA teachers about Parasitology

The TEI teachers visited many different labs and talked to a variety of scientists and support staff. Some of the highlights included visiting labs with research in Tuberculosis (Dr. Eusondia Arnett), Parasitology (Dr. Tim Anderson & Robbie Diaz), and Histology/Pathology (Jessy Martinez, Dr. Ed Dick, Dr. Olga Gonzales, Cathy Perez, & Renee Escalona). Teachers also visited with animal caretakers & vet techs (Heather Gleason, Joe Roberts, & Martin Carias), a veterinarian (Dr. Shannan Hall-Ursone), and a safety manager (Silvia Zemgals).

After this fun, knowledge filled day, TELA teacher, Shaunna Garner had this to say about her experience, “As a teacher, it was important for me to see the science in action, and find a way to make it relatable to the content that I teach.”

If the start of this year’s Summer of Science is any indication of what’s to come, this will be the best one yet!

Article Categories: Events, STEM Careers, Teacher Perspectives, Teacher Professional Development