About 200 librarians and teachers from throughout the Rio Grande Valley attended The University of Texas-Pan American's Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA) for its Librarians and Educators Day Friday, March 21.
This year's theme is Creating Innovations in Education and focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and humanities, and mathematics), which explains how the arts and humanities are used to inspire new developments in science and technology.
At the daylong event, held at the UTPA Ballroom, the educators heard from fellow educators who discussed the importance of instilling a love of reading in children and exposing them to a larger range of vocabulary.
Dr. Judy Blankenship Cheatham, vice president of Literacy Services for Reading is Fundamental, shared startling statistics about how children from lower-income families lag behind academically from their peers from higher-income homes in part because they are not exposed to as large a vocabulary at home.
Tony Diaz, author of "Libro Traficante," talked about his work in fighting efforts by Arizona, California and other states to ban ethnic studies in schools and helping students in those states gain access to works by Latino authors.
Blankenship and Diaz joined U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District's Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Maria Luisa Guerra in the Congressional Roundtable discussion on STEAM Literacy. In that discussion, the panelists talked about how important a role the arts play in inspiring scientific discovery.
"Galileo, Da Vinci, Einstein, all of the great thinkers, all were poets or played violins or were involved in the arts in some way or another," Nelsen said. "STEM will not be successful without innovation. Innovation comes from the imagination (and) the imagination comes from the arts and humanities."
Diana Villarreal, a librarian at Stillman Middle School in the Brownsville Independent School District, said she appreciated hearing from the educators, leaders and congressman.
"I can take the concepts I learned today and apply them to my students," Villarreal said. "It was very eye-opening."
FESTIBA also honored its Educators Rock educators of the year -- Lee Solis of Norma Linda Treviño Elementary School in Edinburg and Alexandra Hellmund of La Union Elementary School in Rio Grande City -- for their accomplishments. Each teacher received a $500 check.
The celebrations continued with El Jardín Del Arte community festival at the Edinburg City Auditorium and grounds, which included live music, art displays, puppet shows for children and book signings.
FESTIBA continues Saturday with the Mariachi Competition and Concert at the UTPA Fieldhouse. More than 600 middle and high school students will vie for the top prize and perform in the evening concert, along with UTPA's award-winning Mariachi Aztlán and world-famous Mariachi Sol de México de Jose Hernández.
For more information, visit www.utpa.edu/festiba.
See more FESTIBA activities in this photo gallery.