A lot can be learned about Tracy Ortiz from Detroit by studying her Thanksgiving menu for the year.
The assortment of delicious dishes including turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans, potatoes and salsa, rum cake, and banana pudding reflects the time Ortiz spent watching her mother (Cheryl Pouncey) attend the holidays growing up—first in Virginia’s Park neighborhood, then near the city’s airport, and later her nearby high school, Osbourne (class of 1984) – having a good time.
But the fact that the 56-year-old Ortiz didn’t rush home right after ringing the last school bell Tuesday at Klippert’s multicultural Magnet Honors Academy, which would have given her a much-needed early start in her holiday cooking, is even more revealing. A statement about Ortiz’s commitment as an educator.
It was Tuesday — the last day of school for Detroit Public Schools Community District students before the Thanksgiving holiday — said Ortiz, the national board-certified science teacher, who was taking extra time after school to work with members of Clippert’s robotics team.
Three days before the Tuesday After School session, Ortiz was with the team in Novi for the first Tech Challenge competition (for inspiration and recognition of science and technology). One day earlier, Ortiz and the members of the robotics team had brought their competition robot to nearby Maybury Elementary School (4410 Porter St. in Detroit), where younger students received an introduction to robotics. After the demonstration in Maybury, Ortiz and the same students rushed to the Michigan Veterans Foundation (4626 Grand River in Detroit), where they delivered an assortment of supplies collected from the entire Clippert school staff to veterans in need.
Despite a recent whirlwind of activity, and after teaching five science classes and one STEM lab class on Tuesday, Ortiz showed no outward signs of fatigue as she helped after-school students who were preparing for the first Tech Challenge competition on Dec. 3 at Callihan Hall on the University of Detroit campus. Merci. This event, just like the last competition in Novi, will send the best-performing middle school robotics teams to state championship competition in December. And while Ortiz may have been too busy talking about being tired, she had a lot to say about the good company she was keeping because of the bots.
“I’m thankful for these students that they don’t have to do that,” said Ortiz, who has been teaching at Klippert for 13 years and coaches the robotics team with “strong support” from assistant coach Cynthia Hollingshead. “We started at the start of school and meet every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I’m just grateful they have the spirit to do this kind of work and stick with it, especially like last Saturday when none of the equipment worked and we couldn’t score points and they’re still trying.
“I am grateful that they have that kind of heart and soul to keep moving forward even in the face of adversity. I think it is not about winning because we learned a lesson through the competition that day and they still had smiles on their faces and were working hard, even in the end.”
Ortiz’s color science classroom is littered with Clippert, equipment and prizes are other enrichment activities her students have participated in over the years, including Destination Imagination (DI), which brings students together in teams to solve open-ended STEAM challenges that encourage creativity. . At the recent DPSCD STEM Awards in June, six of Ortiz’s students were honored for their participation in DI. And in May, Ortiz traveled to Kansas City with students who participated in the DI World Finals. Students taught and sponsored by Ortiz have also won major Science Fair awards, studied water quality issues in the Rouge River, collected atmospheric data shared with NASA and been involved in many other educational adventures that have taken them outside of the comfort of Clippert’s school environment. It’s located in the heart of southwest Detroit on McKinstry Street in 1981 but none of these things would have been possible if Ortiz hadn’t actually made the decision to choose kids over birds some 25 years ago.
said Ortiz, who worked 10 years at the Detroit Zoo as a bird keeper after graduating from the University of Detroit with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Ortiz said that having to put on informal shows at the zoo, including around the penguin area, made her believe she could stand up to the kids to make a living. This relief prompted Ortiz to return to school, which led to her earning a master’s degree in education from Wayne State University in 2000.
“I enjoyed my job at the zoo because I always loved animals, but I love what I do now even more — definitely,” said Ortiz, who will celebrate 23 years as a Detroit Public Schools teacher in January.
And on Tuesday, the students working on the robotics-related tasks in Clippert’s two parts were also apparently happy that Ortiz made the decision to teach.
“She (Ms. Ortiz) is one of the greatest coaches ever,” sixth grader Andre Sanchez said with his words and hands. Sanchez, a programmer on the team, dabbled in robotics at his new school because he enjoys coding and building things. And he has already shown a desire to learn more through the websites he visits, including code.organd by talking to robotics participants in other schools during workshops and competitions.
8th grader Marcus Barber is a builder for Robo-Eagles, which is the name of the team in competition. Barber’s actions throughout the after-school session were calm and measured, as might be expected given his senior status on the team. But when asked what he enjoyed most about his robotics journey, Barber showed his enthusiasm and enthusiasm.
“I really enjoy the whole process of building the robot,” said Barber, an aspiring mechanical engineer. “It’s fun for me because you see the robot evolve and you put all your hard work into it. And in competition you get to see how it all unfolds and you get to see the product of all your hard work. Also, building things and working with actuators and actuators is good practice for my career, I think I will enjoy my career in the future.”
Ortiz says she’s leaning heavily on Barber and all the Robotic Eagles, whose other members are Angel Garcia, Dana Hurtado, Jimmy Duran, Aixa Lozano, Carla Brioni, Emeric Hernandez, Tiziano Garcia, Andres Garcia, Emily Carrillo, and Valentina Fuentes, in addition to Sanchez. As Ortiz says, she greatly values the input of her students and outside resources like the nonprofit Motor City Alliance because robotics is not her “strong suit.” In fact, Ortiz says she felt like a “fish out of water” when she first got involved with robotics five years ago, but she kept going because she saw kids “having fun and interacting.” When she explains her motives further, Ortiz returns to her personal journey and points to Joyce Smith, her cheerleading coach at Osborne High School, who was also teaching business classes at the Randolph Career Center during the same time.
“There are a lot of similarities because Mrs. Smith said she had absolutely no idea what she was doing in terms of cheerleading at first, but she learned along the way, which is what I do with robots,” said Ortiz, who surrendered the marching band to the Osborne cheerleading team. .
Smith wasn’t among the 16 or so people who planned to have Ortiz and her husband Jose, a Detroit Police Department sergeant, at their home for Thanksgiving dinner. But Ortiz says Smith’s impact on her life is always felt.
“Miss. Smith will be with her family for the holiday, but she’s always welcome wherever you are,” Ortiz said. “I think I’m in the position I’m in today because of her. She was so caring, took us under her wing, and made sure we were exposed to things that would help us succeed in life. When I was filling out the University of Detroit application, she helped me and kept checking on me and all the young ladies whom I have coached to this day. All I do today is to introduce the students to the opportunities, which were instilled in me, and instilled in all of us, Mrs. Smith.”
Callihan Hall hosts “Mind Sports”
what: Motor City Alliance Detroit playoff event
When: Saturday 3rd December
where: Callihan Hall on the University of Detroit Mercy campus, 4001 W. McNichols Street
On the verge of danger: District middle school robotics teams participating in the first Tech Challenge (for inspiration and recognition of science and technology) will compete in a series of matches and will also be judged on their engineering approach and community involvement. The event is free to the public and opening ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m. Games begin at 11 a.m. The top teams from the Detroit Qualifier event will advance to the FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship – Southeast Michigan Region, which will take place on December 11. 8-10 at Macomb Community College.
Learn more: For more information, go to motorcityalliance.org
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