Award-winning STEM teachers go ‘back to school’

Lune Vermeire teaching students at Island Montessori.

Two Cayman teachers who won the inaugural Dart Minds Inspired Awards for Excellence in Teaching STEM have used their grants to participate in science-based programmes in the US.

Von Ryan Abrantes and Lune Vermeire, recognised for their “outstanding work” teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics at St. Ignatius Catholic School and Island Montessori, respectively, were awarded US$3,000 grants for their schools, funding to attend a STEM-related professional development course of their choice and $1,000 in cash.

The awards were presented at a ceremony in May.

Over the summer, Abrante attended a week-long science and engineering programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of 50 STEM teachers worldwide accepted into the course, according to a press release.

The programme, held in July, focused on how to use and design games and simulations in classrooms to support systems learning and computational literacy. Abrantes was awarded for his efforts to promote STEM participation at St. Ignatius through programmes such as First Robotics, the Minds Inspired SeaPerch Challenge and the STEM Club.

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Vermeire, who won in the elementary school category, was chosen for her “ability to make STEM learning fun and engaging for young students”. She will attend the National Science Teachers Association conference on science education in Salt Lake City, Utah, next month. A former marine biologist, Vermeire “continues to make conservation a central pillar of her teaching style and this conference will allow her to hear from experts in science education and collaborate with science education leaders and peers”, the press release said.

Calling the MIT programme an “amazing experience”, Abrante said, “It opened my eyes even more to the different ways I can teach STEM and help students appreciate it more. It gave me new insights about the universe that I can share with my students, reinforced the importance of learning 21st century skills in the classroom and the importance of STEM, not just in the academia and industry, but also in making a better and sustainable planet.”

Vermeire is looking forward to hearing about various ideas on teaching science at the October NSTA forum.

“I am very excited to attend a conference focused on science education,” she said. “With hundreds of sessions to choose from covering a range of STEM areas such as environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics and more, the learning possibilities and ideas that I will bring back to the classroom are endless.”

To support the process of using of games and simulations that he learned at MIT, Abrantes requested that the US$3,000 grant for St. Ignatius be spent on REV robotics kits; handheld buzzers for quiz challenges; and additional tools that will ensure a modern and creative learning environment, and allow for smoother participation from his students in SeaPerch and robotics programmes.

Vermeire, who is now teaching at Cayman International School, used the US$3,000 grant to enhance Montessori classes that follow the National Curriculum of England with life and physical science equipment, hands-on and visual material for mathematics classes, and equipment for their garden so students can grow their own food while learning about local plants.

Nominations for the 2020 Excellence in Teaching STEM Awards will be open from 1 Oct. through 1 Feb. next year. For more information, go to www.mindsinspired.ky.

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