May 13, 2016 – An administrator from one of America’s federal space agencies encouraged aspiring teachers to motivate and inspire students to pursue fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics during the 5th Annual Diversity Conference recently held on Fort Valley State University’s campus. The event was co-sponsored by Fort Valley State and Georgia College & State University.
Dr. Hortense Diggs, chief of education for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, was the keynote speaker. She said America’s need for individuals that specialized in STEM fields is growing exponentially. Diggs told the group that just as this need is accelerating, there remains a pool of untapped talent among underrepresented groups (such as African-Americans, Hispanics ) in this nation.
“We should inspire and motivate them to pursue these fields, and become an advocate for these students,” Diggs said. “As educators, your success is vital to our future.”
Diggs said we needed a diverse workforce and a better job of recruiting underrepresented students into the work force. She advised teachers to change their instruction in their classroom, by including more technology to engage young people.
“Technology made a difference in the way we learn, so it should make a difference in the way we teach,” Diggs said.
She also told teachers they needed to do a better job answering students’ questions and showing why STEM subjects can help them earn a lucrative career and help others in the real world.
“Only half of the students that enter to pursue a STEM degree will graduate with one,” Diggs said.
She encouraged aspiring teachers to take their students on field trips, have project-based learning activities around STEM subjects, and to bring in guest speakers that could help them engage students. She told teachers that NASA has STEM workshops to help train teachers and show them how to bring in hands on activities to students and how to conduct outreach activities in schools.
Chaz Lewis, a graduating senior earning his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education, said he believed the event was helpful for aspiring teachers.
“I think Dr. Diggs provided great information,” the 23-year-old Decatur, Ga. native said. “She provided really great information about how to teach STEM subjects in the classroom.”
After the keynote session, aspiring educators headed to break out workshops to learn about the latest techniques to learn about diversity and help their students from diverse backgrounds.
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