Twenty-six East Texas area science teachers, along with representatives from Ana-Lab Corp., Region 7 Education Service Center, Eastman Chemical Company, and Flint Hills Resources, took part in a four-day workshop for STI – Science Teachers & Technology. This was the third year for the workshop, which was conducted Tuesday through Friday (July 18-21) and included visits to several East Texas industries and one landfill, according to Michelle Holyfield, event coordinator representing Eastman. Ms. Holyfield is Team Leader for Responsible Care and Compliance at Eastman.
“The workshop is designed to help 6th through 12th grade Texas educators learn about the importance of the chemical industry, as well as provide them with a balanced view of environmental issues and workforce opportunities in the industry,” Ms. Holyfield explained. “It also gives them activities related to chemistry that they can take back to their classrooms.”
The Ana-Lab portion of the four-day event was on Thursday and included lab tours and a catered lunch. The teachers and other guests were divided into three tour groups led by Ana-Lab employees Will Boyd, lab manager; J.D. Sampson, wet bench supervisor; and Shawn Smith, Director of Business Development, respectively.
Following the Ana-Lab lab tours and lunch, participants engaged in a question-and-answer session led by Smith. “This was another group of strong, committed educators,” Smith said. “I appreciated their level of enthusiasm, and I thanked them for their commitment to the teaching profession. In my view, we can never thank teachers enough.”
Dr. Aaron Gardner, a secondary science teacher from Jacksonville ISD, said he gleaned a lot during the four-day event. “I enjoyed the hands-on projects, as well as the field trips to Eastman, Flint Hills, the landfill, and Ana-Lab,” Dr. Gardner said. “I learned some new aspects of chemistry and how it is used on a daily basis. This has been a very fascinating and educational experience.”
Dana Hill, a chemistry teacher from Harmony ISD, was also enthusiastic. “I really enjoyed seeing the application of what is taught in the classroom in a ‘real world’ setting. Seeing the lab operations and the use of equipment and science skills will help me answer that burning student question of ‘So when am I ever going to use this?’,” she said.
A New Diana teacher, Jeff Barrett, added, “It was great talking with the employees at the toured businesses. It will help me guide students who are interested in pursuing careers in the chemical industry.”
“As an educator, we don’t always experience the ‘real world’ application,” said Summer Willis of Cumberland Academy in Tyler. “Seeing all the opportunities for our students has been enlightening. It was also refreshing to see local people with varying levels of education being utilized.”
“This has been an excellent in-service,” said Loren Lykins of Carlisle ISD. “We’ve had great tours of production, manufacturing, and laboratory facilities, as well as informative presentations and hands-on activities provided by knowledgeable presenters.”
Teachers who completed the full four days will receive 27 hours of continuing education credit, Ms. Holyfield noted. Districts represented were Alba-Golden, Beckville, Carlisle, Cumberland Academy, Cushing, Harleton, Harmony, Hawkins, Henderson, Jacksonville, Kilgore, Longview, Marshall, Martinsville, Mineola, Nacogdoches, New Diana, New Summerfield, Pine Tree, Sabine, San Augustine, West Rusk, West Sabine, and Westwood.
“This year’s workshop has been very well received by the teachers,” Ms. Holyfield said. “I think the tours were especially impactful as the teachers could see the chemical industry and labs in person and talk to their employees about what they do. The teachers can now go back to their students and give them ideas about local career opportunities, many of which require only a two-year degree.”
“I’d like to thank the participating businesses for their help, and especially the staff at Region 7 ESC for once again doing an incredible job of hosting us at their conference center,” Ms. Holyfield added.