More than 1,000 participants packed The University of Texas-Pan American Fieldhouse to launch the beginning of Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week (HESTEC), Oct. 14-17, with Math and Science Educator Day.
UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez welcomed more than 800 Rio Grande Valley educators to the event, where they were given the opportunity to listen to numerous speakers and participate in workshops. Participants also learned the latest tools and techniques that can be used in the classroom to enhance the learning experience for students in the fields of math, science, engineering and technology.
"You are here because you are interested in math, science, engineering, and technology and I hope that today is full of exciting possibilities for you," Nevárez said. "The workshops, seminars and the speakers will provide inspiration and educational benefits that you can use with students in your classroom."
The all day event featured speakers - activist and acclaimed actor Edward James Olmos, and world renown mathematics, physics and computer teacher Jaime Escalante, whose life story was the subject of the 1988 motion picture "Stand and Deliver." Wearing his signature touring hat and wide-rimmed glasses, Escalante, shared his equations for success and called on teachers to inspire "Ganas" in all their students during a special luncheon sponsored by International Bank of Commerce.
"Ganas is all you need. Ganas in my language means desire, but really it means more than that," Escalante said. "Ganas is commitment to success." He assured the crowd that all students can be successful if their teachers do their part to demand and encourage more from their students.
"A teacher must have the tenacity to persevere, the wisdom of Solomon, and the understanding of a saint. Above all, a teacher must have patience," Escalante said.
He assured the crowd that they could encourage "Ganas" in even the most complacent student. Maria Lara, a teacher at Donna High School left inspired after hearing Escalante.
"I learned you have to believe in your students and convince them they can do it," Lara said.
Escalante, 72, is retired after forty-six years of teaching. He is currently the host of an instructional television series on PBS, "Futures" - a popular classroom program that introduces students to the various careers available in science and math.
Olmos spoke about the importance of Hispanics working towards a higher education and being consciously aware of one's heritage during a breakfast sponsored by the IBM Corporation.
"I'm here to say thank you to all of you because you are the reason we have hope for the future, and the reason we are here today," Olmos said.
He also advised educators to go beyond the call of duty and teach what is in their hearts. He also said everything that a teacher does or will do in the future is significant in a child's life and future.
"I think the best education is the key, and I think if we get them into the colleges and universities, they would benefit immensely, and engineering and science (majors) would rise," Olmos said. "We have to realize that education starts in the primary years, it starts from kindergarten all the way through. Out of 740,000 people who are in the science, engineering and technology field, only three percent are Latino and we make up 12 percent of the U.S. population so we are in very dire straits."
During an afternoon speech sponsored by Lockheed Martin, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch encouraged educators to continue their fight against the negative perception of Hispanics in this country.
Kickbusch - originally from Laredo, Texas and the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in combat support field in the United States Army - talked about her climb to success and the importance of education for young Hispanics.
"We can liberate of children by giving them a sense of identity and pride," Kickbusch said. "You must be a leader whose legacy is not defined by your own accomplishments. That is why you are educators."
Educator Day concluded with NASA Deputy Administrator for the Office of Space Flight Frederick D. Gregory - who oversees the management of the International Space Station, space shuttle operations, and space communications and advanced programs.
Gregory, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force has extensive experience as an astronaut, test pilot, and manager of flight safety programs and launch support. As an astronaut he has logged more than 455 hours in space.
He encouraged teachers to get their students interested in space exploration, and learn about all the fields that make it possible for astronauts to walk on the moon or maybe one day visit the planet Mars.
"Five percent of the science and engineering workforce at NASA is Hispanic and we must do better," Gregory said. "We need to make sure that students are given every opportunity to meet these challenges." He also discussed NASA's views and commitment to educating the youth of the nation, which is critical to the country meeting its challenges.
"Education is not just an interest of mine, but a passion," Gregory said. HESTEC will continue through Thursday and feature a Math and Science Student Exploration Day, Sci-Tech Expo Community Night, Hispanic Leadership Day and Forum on Hispanic Science Literacy.
"This is an event we are going to have every year and hopefully it will be bigger and bigger in years to come," Vice President for External Affairs and organizer of HESTEC Roland S. Arriola said. "This event will put a tremendous emphasis on science, mathematics, engineering, and all the technological fields as well as bring national attention to this region."