Americas High School lead librarian Neysa Hardin experienced a different kind of professional development this summer. It was surrounded by lush forests and gushing geysers at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Hardin was one of 12 teachers selected nationwide from 250 applicants for the national park’s annual weeklong STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) Teacher Workshop.
“I feel so renewed and refreshed,” Hardin said. “It’s as if I am a first-year teacher again. You know that energized feeling you had in the beginning? After 20 years in this profession, it is a good feeling to have.”
The Trailblazer educator spent nearly five days learning how to integrate science into art and humanities and vice versa.
“I’ve always been interested in and loved life sciences, but I didn’t study it,” Hardin said. “The workshop gave me a chance to delve in to it.”
Marcy Sparks, Socorro ISD’s coordinator of library services, was excited Hardin had a chance to experience this type of training, she said. It opens the door for other SISD educators. In addition, Hardin plans to share what she learned with her colleagues.
“When Team SISD educators seek opportunities to grow as lifelong learners, especially with unique opportunities like the Yellowstone National Park workshop, they model the very best of our expectations for our students,” Sparks said. “It’s great that she got a chance to attend. I believe Ms. Hardin has a real passion for the importance of preserving our state and national parks as places where learners of all ages can discover the past and appreciate our natural landscape.”
Hardin’s week was intense with little time for sightseeing, she said. The educators woke up early, sometimes at 5 a.m., and went to bed after 10 p.m. They participated in wild life observation, took samplings of the hot springs to uncover the microbes that live there and learned about the Native American culture and its impact on Yellowstone. The group attended nightly lectures from recognized university professors that discussed issues related to the national park.
“For each activity, we learned how art and humanities can intertwine with biology, botany and anthropology,” Hardin said. “During our studio time, they would teach us different art and how to incorporate it into science classes. Now, I hope to teach what I learned to our students at Americas.”
She has several ideas planned for students. She wants to take them to visit the various parks along the southern part of Rio Grande. The hope is to stop at La Llorona and Leasburg Dam parks and the border near Anthony and Canutillo. Students will study the agricultural impact on the river. She also will have her students sharing their own personal Llorona stories, read poems from well-known area poets and write their own poems about what they see around the Rio Grande.
“It’s going to be fun,” Hardin said. “We will return again in April to see if there are any difference in the tests we are taking of the soil and we will look closely any visible changes surrounding the river.”
Sparks applauds Hardin’s innovative thinking. It’s what makes SISD educators, like Hardin, so special, she said.
“When Team SISD librarians take their passions and integrate it into their learning spaces, all their students are better served with opportunities to see the world in new ways,” Sparks said.
Despite the rigorous training, Hardin sees her week at Yellowstone as one of the most satisfying. It’s made this school year an exciting one.
“When I applied, I didn’t really think I would be selected,” Hardin said. “I just turned in the application and hoped for the best. It was like throwing an egg at a wall and hoping it would stick. Now I am so grateful for the opportunity. It was so intense, but I learned so much. It was such a great week.”