February 20, 2017
As a fourth year teacher in Robotics and new to the Berkner High School STEM Academy this year, Omar Pastrana is up front about what it felt like to be the new kid on the block. “At the beginning of a new year, on a new campus and taking on a new robotics team, I was a little overwhelmed. I went from teaching junior high students to juniors in high school.”
During Pastrana’s three years at West Junior High leading the Chrome Broncos Robotics Club, his student teams took home 8 state and national titles and ranked in the top 60 in the world. Pastrana says the trophies were neat, but is was the extra time spent with students during competitions and travel that meant the most to him. “I was able to learn about the students, build relationships with them and their parents, and even help a few through some tough decisions. Competitive robotics brought out students who had never been on a team and required they make teamwork their first priority.”
“As an educator, my job is no longer just to educate but to captivate.”
- Omar Pastrana
Not only are these students more educated, but they’re more capable, says Pastrana. “As an educator, my job is no longer just to educate but to captivate.”
Pastrana’s robotics students are not only learning by building with their hands, designing virtually and programming collaboratively, they are becoming better problem solvers, thinkers and creators.
Most recently, a group of juniors approached him after school. “I thought that they wanted to talk about class but instead they were interested in joining the robotics team. They wanted to dive deeper into what we were learning in class and add the exciting element of competition to it.” Since then, this diverse team of band members, track athletes and honor students has taken their classroom programming and “cranked up the intensity” to apply it to a robot 4 times the size.
“They have spent hours tweaking the program and how their robot is built,” says Pastrana. “Along the way there have been many puns made, parts lost and rebuilding of designs, and they’ve turned their rookie year into a qualification for the state championship. It is such a joy to be there when these students begin to ‘Wow!’ in awe at the realization of their abilities.” #IAmTXEd #txed #risdgreatness
“The students wanted to make this day ‘so huge’ that it would have an impact and that the message would be remembered. They hope that this will start a movement on which others will build, and that this day will be talked about for years to come. They also speak about wanting our district to be one of ‘radical inclusiveness’ where everyone is kind to each other – every day.”
- Dr. Jeannie Stone, RISD Superintendent, on the district’s recent “Kindness Day”
“A trip like this, especially with the tours and places we get to visit, will, I believe, shed a different light and give us different perspective on our nation and its history. It is one thing to read about these places and events in a book, but getting to study them and experience them up close is a completely different story.”
- LHHS Wildcat Wrangler Erin Moudy, on performing for the Presidential Inauguration
“When you can put kids in an authentic work environment that is a skill that you can’t duplicate in a traditional brick and mortar school. You can have the same equipment, you can have the same teachers, you can have the same resources, but you can’t give them the vision of walking into a working hospital.”
- Sandra Hayes, the district’s assistant superintendent of district operations, to the Dallas Morning News during the Open House for RISD’s new Health Science Program at Methodist Richardson Medical Center