TSTC instructors present at national conference in Washington

Two Education and Training program instructors from Texas State Technical College in Harlingen recently garnered some national attention in Washington, D.C., when they made a presentation at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference.

“This was our chance to share all of the things that make our program unique and highlight the work we’re doing at TSTC,” said Myriam Aguila, TSTC Education and Training department chair. “There are wonderful things happening at our college, and we wanted to recognize that.”

NAEYC is one of the largest early childhood education nonprofit associations in the U.S. It represents nearly 60,000 teachers, para-educators, center directors, trainers, college educators, policymakers and advocates from all over the world.

At the annual NAEYC conference, educators gather to share lessons, classroom strategies and ideas.

Aguila, who has presented internationally and serves as a board member for the NAEYC chapter in Texas and as president for the Rio Grande Valley chapter, and instructor Mary Elizabeth Hollmann not only were chosen from among hundreds who submitted presentation proposals, but also were the only ones from the RGV.

“It’s prestigious to get selected,” said Hollmann. “We presented to people from all over the world. It was a great experience.”

Their presentation, which was part of the conference’s Spanish track, was titled “All Children Can Learn Through Dramatic Play.” It focused on how classroom play centers that imitate places like kitchens, post offices and doctors’ offices encourage speaking, vocabulary, reading, spelling and writing.

“Just as it’s important to include hands-on learning for our college students, it’s of the same importance for our little ones, if not more,” said Hollmann. “This type of play and learning allows the children to exercise different parts of the brain, and also encourages social and problem-solving skills.”

Aguila and Hollmann also included some of their students’ work, such as prop boxes, to showcase in their presentation. The prop boxes included themed learning tools used as educational materials at TSTC’s NINOS Head Start program.

“The prop boxes were a hit with the people in our presentation,” said Aguila. “We had professionals enjoying the learning tools and playing with the props inside. Many said this was something they wanted to utilize with their students.”

TSTC in Harlingen’s Education and Training program is the only one of its kind among the college’s 10 campuses. It focuses on early childhood education through sixth grade, and offers certificates and associate degree tracks.

It is one of the largest programs at TSTC, with more than 400 TSTC students and close to 200 high school dual-enrollment students from school districts in Harlingen, Los Fresnos and San Benito.

The program also has a long-standing partnership with Texas A&M University-Kingsville, allowing credits to transfer so students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in education.

“Many of our students find positions at the schools where they complete their practicums,” said Aguila. “And this is great for our students and our program; this is how they craft their profession. But, as educators, we want them to reach for more. So we provide them with opportunities.”

Education and Training also offers evening and weekend classes so every student has the chance to be successful. As for Aguila and Hollmann, they are already preparing their presentation proposal for this year’s NAEYC conference in Tennessee.