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Entrepreneur Magazine Named Baltimore a “Hot Startup City” for Education Technology

The role of technology in education can have significant impacts on the performance of students. At the recent Counseling Fellows graduation, Dean Andrews was quoted as saying “education today is more learner centered and much better able to personalize the learning experience than ever before.” It is through advances and access to technology that will make this possible as Alumni Melissa Garcia and Joseph Manko shawn as they embrace technology in edcating their students. The complete Entreneur startup list can be found here

“Since I come from a similar background, I know my students can learn and excel in STEM courses. I want their best efforts.” –Melissa Garcia, MSEd '13

Growing up in a struggling working class neighborhood in Los Angeles, Melissa Garcia (MS Ed 2013) remembers her mother getting up every morning at 4 a.m. to prepare her three children for school before going off to her job as a cafeteria supervisor. Garcia’s mother was a strong advocate of a well-rounded education as a pathway to a better life. “If I got straight A’s, life was good. If not, I had to work a little harder,” Melissa said of those early years. “Failure was not an option.”

The hard work paid off. Melissa was accepted at the University of California, Berkeley where she earned a bachelor’s degree. Upon graduation, she was headed to Columbia law school but decided to detour to try teaching. Garcia wanted to get classroom experience and teach in an urban school. She applied for and was accepted in Teach for America and chose to work in Baltimore where she could earn her master’s in educational studies degree at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. 

“I was selected for a fourth grade all-subjects teaching position at Barclay Elementary/Middle School,” Garcia said. While teaching during the day, she took MS Ed classes at night. “I loved taking the classes at Johns Hopkins,” she said. “Hardly a class went by that I didn’t learn something that was directly applicable to my classroom. Most of my professors had real-world teaching experience and could make the theory come alive.” 

A few years into her teaching, she was introduced to the STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools Project (SABES), a joint project with the School of Education, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. SABES provides professional development and materials to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers at City elementary schools near the Homewood campus. The program targets students in grades 3-5. 

Garcia said that SABES program triggered her interest in STEM, which she now teaches exclusively. At a recent SABES science fair held at the Maryland Science Center, Garcia’s students were among the most enthusiastic when discussing their projects that featured wind energy, water pollution, and recycling. These fifth-graders were convincing advocates for stronger conservation measures to protect the environment. 

“SABES has helped introduce engineering and other science subjects to students in a way they never would have experienced,” Garcia said. “Many of my students have said they now want to pursue engineering careers.” 

Garcia sets a high learning bar for her students and accepts no excuses for her students not working. “I come from similar circumstances and I know these students can learn and excel.” Her involvement doesn’t end when the school day is over. She set up a running club for girls and can be seen running with them around the school. She even stays in touch when they move, as many do, to another school.

“I’m glad I took the detour from law school to get this experience. I love these kids and love teaching. I would like eventually to get into education policy in order to promote STEM in elementary for all students, right now our nation focuses more on sciences in high school.” Garcia would like to see more STEM emphasis in the early years – as young as PreK. She says now they start in middle school and that is often “too late to spark a student’s interest and get them on an engineering career pathway.”

Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education, visited alumnus Joseph Manko’s Liberty Elementary School

On June 15, Joseph Manko, principal at Liberty Elementary, welcomed United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and Meagan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer. Duncan and Smith toured Liberty elementary where Duncan emphasized the need for schools to invest in spaces where students are free and able to express creativity and ingenuity, such as at Liberty Elementary. The group was also joined by Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, Cindy Hasselbring, Special Assistant and STEM-lead, Maryland State Department of Education, and Greg Thornton, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. 



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