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Notes from NMSI's inaugural Alumni Town Hall

During the Great Depression and World War II, President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” provided reassurance to many Americans that “a steady hand was on the wheel.”

Inspired by a similar for need for reassurance during the pandemic, Melissa Moritz, vice-president of Business Development & Partnerships, hosted our first NMSI alumni virtual town hall this week with CEO Bernard Harris. Teachers, students, and consultants from across the country who have gone through NMSI programming in the past were present on the Zoom call.

“As you all know, we are in the midst of a global pandemic [and] we are all responding to the continued systemic racism that we see in our nation,” said Moritz. “As a result, NMSI has taken a variety of shifts to better support our students, families, communities and educators.”

Moritz introduced Danielle Towns, Business Development & Partnerships manager, to discuss new Family and Community Engagement initiatives. These include the STEM Adventures – free, virtual events for families with K-12 students - and upcoming programming to better assist schools in family engagement. Next, Jaclyn Castma, vice president of Program Management, Delivery & Operations, shared information about our new educative curricula offerings and online student supports.

Following Castma was Stephen Jehl, PreK-12 Program Design director to discuss the acceleration of our blended model of instruction and teacher development, called NMSI 365.  “Covid-19 presented an opportunity for us,” Jehl said. “For the past several years, we’ve been getting a lot of requests from teachers on how they can engage with us outside of our classic face-to-face events.”

As a former consultant of NMSI before joining full-time, Jehl also shared information about the new part-time coach role for educators and invited meeting attendees to consider becoming a NMSI coach or to share the opportunity in their personal networks.

After answering questions from Moritz and attendees, Harris shared a few words with the group about his STEM background in Houston, as well as where he sees NMSI going in the future. “One of my goals [is] to take our core products and scale them further,” said Harris. “Over 75,000 teachers have been involved with [our] program, over two million students, over 13,000 school districts – and we can do more.”

“There’s going to be an opportunity to provide supplemental services to students and especially those students who are furthest from opportunity – those students that are in economically disadvantaged areas. One of the main goals of our organization is to get to that population.”

Moritz then opened the call to a Q&A for Harris and the NMSI managers before concluding. One of the last comments in the chat came from attendee Timothy Johnson of Houston who shared this sentiment, “NMSI was by far the best professional development in 36 years of teaching. Thanks for your faithfulness.”