SAN BENITO — When the students and principal of the Dr. Raul Garza Jr. STEAM Academy began counting down from three, teachers and staff stood nearby, ready to launch confetti cannons and overhead baskets filled with balloons.
Immediately after reaching the end of the countdown, everyone shouted congratulations to the teachers as clusters of party decorations began floating down from the ceiling.
Complete with plaques, rocket-shaped cookies and a far-reaching banner, San Benito CISD’s celebration of their most recent achievement had all the bells and whistles.
The STEAM Academy recently earned the National Certificate for STEM Excellence (NCSE) Campus Certification from the National Institute for STEM Education (NISE).
School district administrators and academy staff hosted a celebration with the students this past week to commemorate the achievement.
The STEAM Academy is the first school in the Valley to earn this recognition.
As part of earning the NCSE campus certification, 12 teachers from the academy also earned the National Certificate for STEM Teaching.
The certification program provides research-based support for system campuses and teachers seeking to strengthen STEM instruction outcomes.
During the celebration, Superintendent Nate Carman recognized the work STEAM Academy staff did to earn the certification.
“When we set out last year to designate Dr. Raul Garza into a STEAM Academy we did not want to do it in name alone,” Carman said to the teachers during the ceremony. “We made changes to the building, purchased STEAM instructional supplies and then the big piece is we wanted to make sure our teachers had the appropriate professional development and certification.”
According to Katz Kuminski, a representative from the National Institute for STEM Education, there are more than 90,000 elementary campuses in the United States.
From those, Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy is one of nine in the country to receive the NSCE campus certification.
“Boys and girls, your teachers did something pretty impressive,” Kuminski said to students during the ceremony. “It’s a difficult task, but by gosh, they put in the time and worked hard to get this accomplished.”
The STEAM Academy focuses on five areas of study — arts, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Whether they become chemists, mathematicians or engineers, Principal Elsa Lambert says every student at the academy is expected to succeed.
Not just in the “little city” of San Benito or the state of Texas, but in the entire world.
According to Lambert, working through the campus certification has been one of the most impactful experiences STEAM Academy has undergone.
She said it has provided her team a deeper understanding of STEM education, provided teachers with specific actions that help attain higher student achievement and have helped create a culture of responsible thinking and teaching.
“I feel very honored and emotional because it has been a lot of work for our students, teachers and the entire team,” Lambert said during the celebration as she tried to hold back tears. “I know how hard our children and our parents work on a daily basis and that’s amazing because that’s the culture we want to set, high expectations for everybody all of the time.”
What is the National Institute for STEM Education (NISE)?
• NISE is a research-based support system for campuses and teachers seeking to strengthen STEM instruction and outcomes.