Moriarty High School teacher Jaime Silva spells STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) a little differently than most.
The three M’s she puts in her math classes recently won her the STEM award as the NM STEM Teacher of the Year. Silva uses the video game EPIC Mario and M&M’s candy to relate to her students.
Pre-calculus students get to pick Mario characters and pick up coins or boxes as they progress, while in Algebra II, the M&M’s are used to teach exponents and graph the results when the candies are added and subtracted from cups.
“We use cross-curricular things like zombie apocalypses, crime scene investigations or circuits,” Silva said. “They make the class more engaging and more exciting, and we wouldn’t be able to do crime scene investigation or look at circuits without STEM.”
Laura Williamson, a gifted inclusion teacher at Moriarty who has worked with Silva for six years, nominated Silva for the STEMY. She mentioned other projects Silva uses in her classroom, and said in her submission, “these are just a few hands-on STEM activities incorporated into her lessons. Many of these projects were created from scratch, given the required objectives that students needed to learn.”
Her application was supported by guidance counselor Chris Gunnare, as well as humanities teachers Amy Page and Shari Bock. Silva said it was quite a ceremony at the Hotel Albuquerque with a dinner and TV celebrity Science Bob on hand.
The awards are put on by the Air Force Research Laboratory, which reaches out to students in fifth grade and up as part of the STEM initiative, to get more people trained to work in one of the industry’s four facets.
While nanotechnology and biomedical are just two examples of STEM job types, Silva said they can also range from building parks, roller coasters and roads to being “any type of graphic artist like in Disney or Pixar movies.”
“Our job is to prepare them for these careers,” Silva said. “Students like to be challenged and like to learn – when you challenge them, it enables them to step up more than they thought they could.”
Silva said she always liked to experience new things.
“Learning in general was my favorite thing. When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut or a teacher,” the teacher said.
Silva said Leslie Cordier was her teacher in first, fifth and eighth grade.
“She was one of the reasons why I became a teacher – she had such a loving soul and a passion to learn,” she said
Silva, who is in her sixth year of teaching, said it was “pretty special” teaching with Cordier before she retired.
While Cordier sticks out in her mind, Silva said several teachers who influenced her to enter the profession.
Silva went to Eastern New Mexico University on a soccer scholarship and got her Bachelor of Science in math, with a secondary licensure in education. She is working on her master’s degree at New Mexico Tech.