Friday, October 17, 2008

3rd CESTL Story: A Powerful Learning Experience

A Powerful Learning Experience—The 3rd CESTL Story

Curriculum & Instruction
School of Education
University of Texas at Brownsville


On June 27, 2008, another CESTL (Conference of Elementary Secondary Teaching & Learning) took place in the educational building of the School of Education at the University of Texas at Brownsville. A total of 38 undergraduate students presented their research. At least 30 people from outside (mainly the student presenters’ parents, spouses, siblings, children) attended this conference as well.

CESTL was organized by instructor Dr. Dengting Boyanton and all of her students currently taking her courses EDCI 4322 Human Development & Instruction and EDSC 4322 Human Development & Instruction in the School of Education at the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB/TSC).

The 3rd CESTL showed research conducted by all of our student researchers during the summer session, who spent this whole semester investigating one research topic of their interest under Dr. Boyanton’s guidance and supervision. Specific research method used was self-study, through which our students explored their own growing up experiences and stories as a learner.

This conference covered a wide range of topics related to classroom teaching and learning including learning and motivation, learning environment, learning process, learning conditions, peer relationship and learning, parenting and learning, teacher characteristics and learning, learning disability, race and learning, as well as culture and learning

A Powerful Learning Experience

Like the previous CESTL, the third conference was once again extremely successful. Although this conference lasted for almost eight and half hours (from 1:00pm to 9:30pm), which most of the students did not think they could sit there for such a long period of time and still enjoy it, all students reported that they actually enjoyed the whole conference. Not only did they enjoyed every single presentation, they also enjoyed “every single minute.”

The 3rd CESTL has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the student presenters as well as some of the parents, who described this experience as “great,” “exciting,” “inspiring,” “motivating,” “entertaining,” “emotional,” “touching,” “powerful” “amazing” “respectful” “stimulating,” “interesting,” “incredible,” and “informative.” The list goes forever…

Heathcliff shared his experience that when he first heard that they were going to have to present at a conference for eight and half hours, he wasn’t too excited. He said, “I was not exactly looking forward to being there for a long time. Yet, despite this predisposition, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There was not a single person who went up there who I didn’t enjoy their presentation.”

Ruben also said expressed his concern that “I was a bit worried about being contained in one room, forced to listen to 40 (or so) other people’s stories.” But he found himself “was pleasantly proven wrong.” “It was such a great experience to consider the motives of other future educators. Some of the colleagues’ presentations were very emotionally stirring. Their experiences truly had an effect on them, and they were passionate about their work. I’m really grateful Dr. Dengting brought that out in all of us.” “The CESTL was a great experience!” He said.

Tania shared similar feelings, “At the beginning I thought eight hours was going to be a long time, but once we were there, time flew fast.”
Erika also said that “I have to admit I did not like the idea of having to spend so many hours in the conference, but once the conference got started and I started to listen and learn from everyone’s stories and experiences, I lost the track of time. Time went by so fast, and I enjoyed every minute of the CESTL.”

The 3rd CESTL was also a unique conference in the way that most student presenters conducted their research through self-study, which was to reflect their own growing-up experience as a learner. This special format of research method made many students very emotional and sentimental during their presentations. Many students said that they felt like crying or actually cried many times during the conference. Dr. Boyanton herself broke into tears during her own presentation. She was also deeply touched by many of her students’ presentations and cried many times. “It was really hard for me to listen to my students’ stories and know how much they have been through and how hard they had tried to just be where they are today. Their strength, will-power, resilience, and hard work really touched my heart!” Dr. Boyanton said.

Student Rosalinda, a fifty-year-old lady, gave her presentation with tears on her fact almost during the whole presentation. Rosalinda had always wanted to attend school since she was a child, but her dream of attending school were denied many times because of her family were unable to afford the tuition. Rosalinda couldn’t help crying when she recalled how all the hardships in her life kept her from attending college.

Anais, another presenter started her presentation with a sweet smile, but broke into tears in the end when she was stating how her parents had influenced her as a person in Spanish to her parents, who were sitting right in the very front. Her parents sure looked very touched and also proud to be there.

Noelia, another strong woman whose presentation touched the whole room, cried almost during her entire presentation, when she recalled how much hardships her parents had been through and how her college dreams had been delayed again and again due to all kinds of challenges and obstacles! She felt really blessed to have the opportunity to study at UTB today.

Margarita, another strong woman who had to hold her head up very high so that tears would not falling down her face, had also touched many of the audiences when she shared her growing-up experiences and how her parents affected her parenting style today.

Many parents and family members were also touched by the students’ presentation and cried as well. Michelle noticed that her father was crying during presentation. She said “My dad is really big on family and gets really sentimental when he hears us tell them that we appreciate them for everything they have done. As soon as I started my presentation, he was crying, so soon after I couldn’t hold it.”

There were also many laughters in the CESTL. For example, Vanessa Lope's presentation on how age had affected her learning definitely lightened up the spirit of the room. The funniest presentation would be Eleazar, who was determined to make make people laugh during his presentation. Well, he sure succeeded in doing that. People were very amused and entertained by his presentation during the whole time. However, although he intended to make his presentation funny, his deep love for his mother was obvious and still touched many of the audience!

What have the students learned?

The students reported that they have learned a lot out of this CESTL experience. Some students learned that public speaking is not as fearful or scary as they originally thought was. They learned that the main thing was to push themselves and give it a try first before they told themselves “no.” As a result, many students started to feel much more confident and comfortable about public speaking in the future. For example, Patricia mentioned that presenting at the CESTL helped her overcome her fear of public speaking and she said,

“I personally had never been involved in something like this; it made me feel as if I can accomplish anything now. I had always been terrified of public speaking, but after last night, I always have to remind myself that I did it once, I can do it again. I was pretty satisfied with my presentation because like I said I was always shy and afraid of public speaking.”

Frank said that “What I learned about myself was mostly that I am going to get more comfortable in public speaking, which is very important for me since I’m going to be an art teacher.” Erika also said that “After I was done with my speech, I felt proud of myself for getting through it. I definitely learned to get over one of my biggest fears: public speaking.”

Monique, another student who was scared of public speaking, said that: “It was a big learning experience for me. After talking in front so many people, I feel that now I am able to do any presentation. I will probably still be nervous, but at least I know now that I am capable of doing it.”

The most important thing is that the students learned about each others’ struggles and passion to teach, and they felt very inspired and motivated to teach and learn after hearing each other’s stories.

“I feel I have learned a lot from this experience. First of all, I have learned that there are amazing teachers out there who will go to the limit to help their students feel comfortable and important. I think we all have Dr. Boyanton to thank for everything. I also learned a lot from my peers. They shared stories in the CESTL that will stick with me forever. I learned good ways to be and affective teacher and bad ways.” Said Patricia.

“I learned a lot from this experience; it was great to see other people’s perspective on education and their points of view on what they think can affect a student. I though it was great and I learned a lot from everyone.” Said Kesia.

Rosalinda also said that she learned a lot from the CESTL experience, “The experience with the CESTL was wonderful, I learned a lot not only from all the participants but from myself. I never thought that I could stand in front of a big group and talk about my life. It was very emotional, but even with that I could do it. I am glad that I decided to take this class and specially with you Dr. Boyanton, I learned a lot from you as a caring person, an excellent teacher, and a professional professor. It is an honor to have teachers like you in our university.”

Crespin also said that he was really moved by some of the presentations and it made him realize that he wasn’t the only one who struggled to get to where he is today. “Some of the presentations made me sad, and I realized that some students lived a harder life than I did and still found a way to keep learning and did well in school. It was really interesting to hear my classmate’s personal struggles and I have a new respect for all of them. I don’t think I will ever forget any of them and I hope they won’t forget me, either.” Said Crespin.

Michelle said that she enjoyed learning about each presenter as a person, which she thinks is very important, “You learn about how there are different lifestyles and backgrounds to everyone. We need to learn how to adapt to them and not judge them by a simple statistic or by how we think they are. We should take our time to meet with everyone individually and find that inner personality they have.”

Cristina shared similar feelings and said that “I can honestly say that I have known most of my classmates in a deeper perspective and hopefully made new friends. I hope all of my classmates and Dr. Boyanton as well have every dream fulfilled and that they can achieve them with positive outcomes.”

Monique learned that family support is a very important factor in one’s success, “I also liked this conference because it gave us a chance to learn a lot about everybody’s life, and it allowed me to see how important family is to most of us. Family support is very important and that is the reason most of us are in college today. We all want to make our families proud.”

Margarita expressed that she learned how to be a strong person, and how one should not to let the past obstacles affect their future lives and happiness. She said,

“I am glad I got the courage to come out in the open and talk. I wanted everyone to see that regardless of how we grew up, we could make changes of our own. That I learned from my past to stay strong and keep going. I am really glad I got the chance to share my story. Thank You, Dr. Boyanton for believing in each one of us to be able to go up there and speak. I will always look back at this conferent as an incredible learning experience for me as an educator and as a parent.”

Karina learned the importance of parenting in our life, “The CESTL made me realize that other people have many problems as well as me. I learned that parenting is a big influence in their children. I got to learn about other people's lives, the way they grew and I got ideas about how to raise my children in the future. I learned about what things to do and not to do to help my own children and also future students.”

How did the students feel about their presentation?

Needless to day, almost all of them felt extremely nervous at the beginning and not sure if they could do it or not. Cristina’s experience can be a good representative of most students’ experiences,

“I was so nervous that I felt like crying as soon as I stepped in the room. Once I saw our classmates it made me feel even more uneasy because they were all dressed up professionally. I thought that with our wardrobe we actually already looked like teachers which made me feel anxious. I started seeing everyone go up to the front and present. All of them were doing so well that it made me feel as if I was going to do horrible. As soon as I had to sit on the chair to wait for my turn, I started shaking all over. I couldn’t control my legs and my hands.”

Crespin shared similar feelings when he first arrived at the conference,

“As I was driving to the education building for our CESTL conference I started to feel very nervous and started sweating. As I walked into the room, I saw many of familiar faces that made me feel a little more comfortable. I had attended the other EDCI classroom about two weeks earlier which gave me the opportunity to meet some of those students who were at the conference. After being there for a couple minutes, I said to myself, “This is no big deal. I can do this,” and I started feeling better and more confident. I started to realize that everyone was just as nervous as I was and that helped me.”

However, once the presentation started, most students found themselves actually calmed down and able to concentrate on their presentation. For example, Cristina said that she actually felt so confident there presenting that she almost felt awkward, and she never had this kind of confident feeling before.

“Well, I actually didn’t even feel as myself up there, I had this confidence that I actually never have, it was interesting to feel it. I remember getting some questions from others and answering them… But as soon as I sat down I didn’t even remember what I had answered or said. I doubted myself and thought, 'Did I actually just do that?' I did it! I was relieved and I felt so hot afterwards.” Said Cristina.

In general, almost all students felt very pleased with their presentation. Kesia said that she felt very pleased with her performance, she felt the sense of proud, as well as the sense of achievement.

“I am so happy that we finally did the CESTL. I was very nervous at first, but after seeing everybody go up, and I felt very proud of everyone, and I felt that I worried too much because it was not that hard, it was very challenging but I feel it was another accomplished goal. I feel very satisfied with my performance, I talked about my research and I felt very familiar with everyone, I did not feel nervous once I was there in front of everyone and for that I feel very satisfied and proud of myself.” Said Kesia.

Ruben said that “I was fairly satisfied with my performance. I think my explanations and PowerPoint flowed nicely.” Frank, a student who shared his passion about art at the CESTL, also felt pleased with his presentation, “I thought my presentation went very well. I received several questions, which I thought I was not going to get.”

Many students felt proud after their presentations. Monique, who was extremely nervous about presenting at the CESTL and felt very unsure if she could do it or not, felt very proud of her own performance afterwards, and she said,

“I have to say that I am very proud of my performance and everybody else’s. I really believe that we all did such a great job. I couldn’t believe that I did it! I can actually say that I am very proud of my performance. I am usually not satisfied with my performances but this time I was. When I first had to do it in class, I hated the way it turned out because I felt that I had skipped so many things and I wasn’t able to get my points across, but when I did it at the conference, I felt that I was able to make my points and tell my complete story.”

Nidia, another student who had fear of public speaking, also felt proud afterwards, “I think that I did a good job and I feel proud of myself.”

Rosalinda, who broke into tears during her presentation, said that although she was not very satisfied with her presentation because she could not control her tears (although she actually did a great job), she was very proud that she did it. “About my performance I can not said that I was satisfied, I was emotional and nervous. But I am proud that even with that I did it!!!!!!!!!”

Some students also felt more prepared about future teaching career. As Jerome said “Everyone did a terrific job presenting last night. I am glad that we got to have that experience. It is just another way in which you (Dr. Boyanton) have helped to prepared us—your students, for what challenges we may face as educators.”

Many students also felt motivated after this experience, and started to thinking about obtaining masters and Ph.D.s after receiving the bachelor’s degree. “I know that many of my classmates/friends will go on to obtain their master degrees as well as be fantastic teachers wherever they teach. Some will get their PHD’s and hopefully do positive things for the future of students in this or any country abroad if they chose too.” Said Jerome.

Overall Evaluation of CESTL

Over all, the students were very satisfied with their own performances at the CESTL, and their impression of the CESTL was very positive.

Heathcliff said,
“I’m glad that I had the experience of attending and presenting at CESTL. The stories I heard were touching and emotional. Some were funny and humorous. Overall, regardless of how much I wasn’t looking forward to it initially, I definitely would like to do something like this again and I, without doubt, am glad that I took this course with Dr. Dengting and had the opportunity to share my life experiences and learn from the lives of my peers.”

Erika said
“I would not change any thing about the castle conference. Every thing was well planned and organized and everybody looked so professional. It was a great practice and introduction for what the future has in store for us as future educators. I thank Dr. Boyanton for bringing the best out of us and for showing us what we are capable of.”

Patricial said,
“I am speechless when it comes to last night’s CESTL conference. Everyone was so supportive and everyone I feel did an amazing job presenting. The environment was a lot more comfortable that I had expected being with another class that we did not know too well. I ended up knowing a few other people from the class and they were all respectful and supportive to all of us.”

Nidia said,
“I really learned that no matter what obstacles you confront in your way, always continue to be optimistic and motivated to succeed throughout life. I really think that everything came out so perfect that I don’t think there’s any suggestion to improve in future CESTL Presentations.”

Sandra said,
“Wow! I was really amazed about everybody’s presentation, it was really emotional and touching, I learned a lot from everyone. This was my first experience ever in giving a story of my life to strangers. But you know it was worth it, after a while I felt that all those people, I knew them from a long time. I am really glad that Dr. Boyanton made us participate on this presentation.”

Karina said,
“I really enjoyed the red ribbon dance!! It was amazing to see how you are able to control the ribbons and create such beautiful shapes according to the music. I would never thought I would have the opportunity to see such a great performance in my life.”

Suggestions for Future CESTL

While sharing their high praise about the 3rd CESTL, the students also provided their insightful suggestions on how to improve future CESTL events. Dr. Boyanton found these suggestions to be extremely valuable and she would definitely consider those suggestions in the future CESTL planning.

Some suggestions students gave included having students loaded their ppt slides to the computer desk top a day earlier, enforcing punctuality, providing folders for each person’s evaluation forms, not allowing people to come in during presentation to avoid interruption (instead, asking them to wait till that person finishes), having the pizza break a little earlier, being more strict with the time limit, having the presentation evaluation criteria more clearly explained to the presenters ahead of time, inviting more parents and families to attend, inviting previous CESTL student presenters to share their working experiences after graduated from UTB/TSC.

As for Rosalinda, her advice, is to encourage Dr. Boyanton keep CESTL going. She said, “My advice is that never stop doing CESTL, the students will really benefit from it!”


The CESTL would like to express its deepest appreciation for all of the generous help and support with this event provided by the School of Education and Curriculum & Instruction. Without their support, we could not have done it or done it so well! The CESTL would like to particularly thank Dr. Brogdon and Dr. Ramirez for providing the funding, Monica and Lupita for arranging the food and the drinks, Janie for printing the programs and evaluation forms, Norma for helping with spreading the news within the SOE community, and many others volunteers whose names we don't know.

The CESTL would also like to thank the Distance Education office for providing the video-taping service for the whole conference, which meant a lot for the students!

Lastly, the CESTL would like to express its greatest appreciation for all the student presenters’ hard work and support with this event. It is their excellent presentations which made the 3rd CESTL so successful, meaningful, and enjoyable. Without their contribution, this 3rd CESTL wouldn’t have been possible!

To view the 3rd CESTL pictures:

To watch the 3rd CESTL Videos, please copy and paste the links in a new browser:

CESTL Video Part 1


CESTL Video Part 2


CESTL Video Part 3


CESTL Video Part 4


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