by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., July 21, 2004 – Several science and math teachers from throughout New Mexico are spending part of their vacation this summer doing research and fieldwork in far-off places like Alaska, the Yucatan Peninsula, and British Columbia as part of a professional development program offered by New Mexico Tech in Socorro.

Since starting last summer, the New Mexico Tech Professional Development Program for Secondary Math and Science Teachers has provided opportunities for 85 teachers representing 23 school districts to enroll in various classes offered through the university’s Master of Science Teaching (MST) degree program.

With seed funding made available by the New Mexico State Legislature, combined with grants from federal agencies, high school teachers from Taos to Las Cruces and Clovis to Zuni are getting their tuition and fees paid for this summer at New Mexico Tech. In addition, selected participants in the program also receive monetary stipends to study diverse topics ranging from radio astronomy to nanomaterials, all the while earning credits toward an advanced degree.

The graduate-level courses, which are taught by New Mexico Tech professors, sometimes offer “exotic” hands-on experiences for the teachers, such as digging up dinosaur bones in Wyoming or observing tropical ecosystems in Belize.

Other teachers, however, have opted to pursue more seemingly mundane studies this summer by taking a weeklong course being offered in computer information security.

Teenage hackers, be forewarned: After completing the class, teachers will be able to identify and patch up security shortcomings in their own schools’ databases, preventing unwanted occurrences such as tampering with posted grades.

Socorro area teachers and school administrators who are currently enrolled in the New Mexico Tech Professional Development Program for Secondary Math and Science Teachers include: Melinda Alderman, Dan Bullock, and Dave Marquez of Magdalena; and Cynthia Connolly, Demetria Fenzi-Richardson, Barbara Martinez, Peggy Mitchuson, Pauline Nielsen, and Robert Jiron of Socorro.