TAMIU Graduate Part of Inspiring
Oscar Widales is featured in "Life is Loud," a campaign developed by The Texas A&M University System for its Mid-Career STEM Teacher Education Program (MC-STEP), in partnership with Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching and the Texas Education Agency.
The D. D. Hachar Honors Program Texas A&M International University 2009 graduate also found his knack for encouraging others to fulfill their dreams and perhaps follow his lead into the classroom via a new multi-media campaign.
He’s featured as a teacher in “Life is Loud,” a campaign that casts today’s classroom as a sanctuary for dreams to be made real and help identify, recruit and graduate the 11,000 new math or science teachers Texas needs to address its critical teacher shortage.
The campaign was developed by The Texas A&M University System for its Mid-Career STEM Teacher Education Program (MC-STEP), in partnership with Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching and the Texas Education Agency.
Widales said he believed his approach to teaching links with the campaigns, strengthening its message.
“One of the things I like to build my classroom on is respect. I respect my students, and I expect them to respect me and themselves. Students notice when a teacher truly cares about them, and it makes a very big difference in the attitude they have toward the teacher and the class itself. I always tell my students that I am there for them and because of them and that I will do everything I can to ensure they succeed, but they also know I expect them to work hard and to be committed. I try to not only be a teacher but also a mentor and someone my students can trust,” he explained.
He said he also hopes that he can encourage greater appreciation for mathematics.
“Unfortunately for some reason or another, many students tend to be apathetic about mathematics. They see it as pointless and irrelevant to their lives. In order to engage and excite students about mathematics, I try to incorporate as much ‘real life’ examples or scenarios as possible. For instance, I like to start off some lessons in my geometry class with PowerPoint presentations that show geometric figures or ideas in real life. Many students find them interesting and realize that they are learning a lot more than simple facts,” he noted.
He said the experience of filming the campaign is available online and in print advertisements in magazines like Texas Monthly, was itself interesting.
“The commercial was filmed on a Friday at a high school in Austin, and filming began early. All of the students from the commercial are actual students from the high school we were in, and they were all really excited to be there. I was excited as well and surprisingly not nervous at all… at times, it felt like I was in a movie studio filming the sequel to “Stand and Deliver!” he recalled.
As for helping nurture Texas’ next generation of math and science teachers, he believes to not do so could cripple the State’s future.
“If the State is unable to fill the need for 11,000 math or science teachers by 2012, it is going to have to implement plans to either get the needed teachers or find ways to make up for their absence. One possibility is for the State to search for teachers abroad. If I am not mistaken, something along these lines is already taking place, yet the shortage remains. The State of Texas would really have a hard time if the needs were not met. Further, mathematics and science are the future of the nation. Most modern jobs require an understanding of mathematics, science, and technology, which is technically a combination of mathematics and science, so mathematics and science teachers at the high school level are setting the ground for information youngsters will encounter in their everyday lives,” he surmised.
What words of advice would he offer a possible future mathematician or scientist?
“One of the first things I would tell a student who is thinking of becoming a math or science teacher is for him or her to make sure they love the field. In order to be able to make students love subject, teachers need to love it and be passionate about it themselves. I constantly bring up my experiences at TAMIU during my classes. I emphasize the opportunities I got to meet awesome individuals and to travel to great places. In my room, I have my TAMIU Class of 2009 sash, and I constantly make mention of higher education in one way or another. Fortunately, students have been responsive to this, and many of them have asked me about career advice and about my experiences at TAMIU,” he smiled.
Widales’ passion for his field is palpable. He’s apparently got a knack for it.
For more information on math and science opportunities at TAMIU, call the College of Arts and Sciences, department of engineering, mathematics and physics at 326.2588 or email Dr. Hoonandra Goonatilake at firstname.lastname@example.org
Information can also be found at tamiu.edu/coas/depts/dmps
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