Contrary to popular belief, local public schools DO outperform private schools in vital areas such as college readiness and higher academic standards. Still, it is not surprising to hear that some parents continue to believe that private and/or charter schools provide a higher quality of schooling than that of public institutions.

While keeping with the knowledge that public education is a great avenue for families everywhere, La Joya ISD decided to shift the emphasis of five of its elementary schools from the traditional educational setting, to a curriculum that exposes students to new learning methods that revolve around a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Fine Arts, or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Math) culture.

Currently, the district offers plenty of options at the secondary level where students get to choose and focus on a career pathway early – before graduating and heading to college, but for the incoming 2018-2019 school year, La Joya ISD will now provide similar CHOICES for elementary students who wish to explore, specific areas of study. This allows for a greater opportunity for children to discover a new interest, or to build on an existing dream.

La Joya ISD’s plan will take elementary education in a brand-new direction by converting 5 of the 23 elementary schools into DESIGNATED SCHOOLS of CHOICE.

The five NEWLY designated elementary schools at La Joya ISD are: William J. Clinton and Evangelina Garza as STEM schools, Emiliano Zapata as a Fine Arts specialty campus, and Enrique Camarena and JFK Elementary as STEAM schools.

All schools will transform their teaching and learning strategies to be linked with their specific designation.

STEM-

In a research conducted by Florida State University, they found that “when you put a spotlight on project-based learning – which is common in STEM – you provide opportunities for authentic growth and development. Not only does STEM-focused education open students to new subjects, it also allows for different learning methodologies to be utilized.”

Additionally, statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce discovered that adults with a degree in STEM earn more than non-STEM counterparts.

“Our goal at Garza Elementary is that all students will be able to develop a problem-solving mentality through manipulating materials, creating products, and participating in guided exploration of topics,” stated Principal, Ms. Maria Flores-Guerra. “… and because the fastest growing job sectors in the US are those in healthcare and technology, starting off children in an environment that offers a STEM curriculum, puts them at the forefront of the future job market.”

La Joya ISD’s STEM designated elementary schools will offer programs such as Lego Labs, Maker Space, robotic clubs, and creation of digital products using technology apps (to name a few), amongst many other services and opportunities related to STEM.

FINE ARTS-

Equally important, the significance of the arts in the educational process cannot be ignored – they are what makes us most human and most complete as people.

The U.S. Department of Education agrees that “arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a knowledge-based, global economy. And the arts are valuable for their own sake. They empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works. Creating by doing is a uniquely powerful way to learn.”

Emiliano Zapata Elementary will be the only elementary campus in La Joya ISD to completely immerse the fine arts into the daily instruction of core areas. This campus will focus on Theatre Arts (drama), Music, and the Visual Arts; and students and parents can also expect an increase in in-school and community performances as well as participate in choir ensembles, art clubs, dance groups, instrument ensembles, theatre groups, and video production clubs.

“It’s thrilling to know that students will unveil new talents and skills and get the opportunity to interact with other children with common interests and goals in the Arts,” stated Principal, Rosa Elia Gonzalez. “.. and upon exiting Zapata Elementary, they will be ready to succeed in middle and high school performing groups – and equipped to conquer the world of Fine Arts.”

Some benefits of an arts integrated curriculum include: joy of learning (a relief from a standardized testing culture), improved test scores, children learn to work with others, develop creativity and self-expression, and acculturation. Furthermore, Zapata Elementary hopes to partner with local art venues such as the McAllen Performing Arts Center and collaborate with middle and high school performing arts students, and with local symphony orchestras, arts groups, museums, and art foundations.

STEAM-

The STEAM program, which will be implemented at Camarena and JFK elementary, will encompass a combination of STEM and Fine Arts to foster well-rounded students for a future in these fields. Whereas traditional learning develops fact-based knowledge, STEAM develops skills such as flexibility, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.

A 2013 education study found that when the liberal arts were integrated with science, problem-based learning and technology, student achievement increased in science and math as well. STEAM is therefore not only about preparing our students for the future – it also can act as a potential catalyst to accelerate learning.”- Miller, J., & Knezek, G. (2013). STEAM for student engagement. Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference

The Camarena and JFK Elementary families can look forward to a more in-depth exposure to hands-on and project-based learning, study trips and visits from professionals in the field, talent showcases and exhibits, and partnerships with higher learning institutions.

“At JFK Elementary, the setting will definitely expose our students not only to higher levels of academia in all areas of STEAM but will to enhance leadership skills that actively engage in 21st century learning. Parents and staff too are together embarking on this new journey that truly is exciting for everyone,” added Ms. Mary Guerra, Principal.

“The new elementary designations will expand on the open enrollment public school choice programs in our region – allowing the students at La Joya ISD a greater window of opportunity for success. Via the best leadership and most committed teachers, high student expectations, and a solid academic curriculum that takes advantage of new technologies, La Joya Independent School District is bringing opportunities for all!” – Dr. Alda T. Benavides, Superintendent of Schools, La Joya ISD.

For more information, questions, or to enroll your child in any of our 5 Designated Elementary Schools, call us today at

323-2665.