Gemini Observatory Press Releases

Gemini Announces Selection of Six "StarTeachers"

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Hilo StarTeachers

Pictured from left to right: Janice Harvey, Gemini's Public Information & Outreach Assistant, Kristen Luning, Alicia Hui, Christine Copes, and Peter Michaud, Gemini's PIO Manager.

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Chile StarTeachers

Pictured from left to right: Viviana Calderon, Carmen Luz Briones, and Jenny Opazo.

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Alicia Hui

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Alicia Hui

Alicia Hui teaches fifth grade at Haili Christian School. She has been with Haili for the past eight years.

Born and raised on the Big Island, Ms. Hui earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Education and Bible Studies in 1988 from Holmes College in Greenville, N.C.

Following graduation, Ms. Hui began her teaching career at Haumana Christian School and the Henry Opukahaia School. In addition to her teaching duties, she helped coordinate an advanced reading program for the two schools.

She joined Haili in 1994. While teaching at Haili, Ms. Hui has become interested in the challenge of presenting a science curriculum to elementary students. She has taken several extracurricular workshops and seminars on teaching science and astronomy in the classroom, some of which have been sponsored by Gemini.

She says she feels teaching science to younger students is important for Hawai`i's children because it can help educate them to the possibilities of careers in science and astronomy here on the Big Island. "For one thing, I think it's important to make them aware of the opportunities for employment in our astronomy program here," she says.

Ms. Hui, who is part Hawaiian, says one of the important aspects of the StarTeachers program for her is the opportunity to share her heritage with others.

"I hope I can share some things that will really enhance our students' curriculum and to broaden my own horizon in science and astronomy. I'm looking forward to learning aspect of the program as much as the teaching."

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Carmen Luz Briones Castillo

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Carmen Luz Briones Castillo

Born in La Serena, Carmen Luz graduated from Liceo de Niñas in La Serena in 1972 and continued immediately after her studies to become a teacher of Elementary and Junior High School with a major in Natural Sciences at the Universidad de Chile, La Serena branch.

Carmen held her first job for 22 years at the Escuela Cielo Claro (meaning "clear skies") in Paihuano where she was also the coordinator or Red Enlaces (a Computer Program for schools in Chile). It was then that the skies attracted her attention, as well as her student's, who participated in the Young World's Fair of Science in 1999 where they obtained first place and received a telescope that has became an extremely valuable asset to the school.

It was also during these years that she was selected to travel to Vancouver, Canada to spend two months for training in the use of computers and Internet in the classrooms. In 2002, Carmen Luz decided to return to La Serena with her two daughters of 17 and 19, to take a position as a second grade teacher in the Colegio Isabel Riquelme de Las Compañías. She also teaches natural sciences to 7th and 8th graders.

Her class while in Hawai`i will be based on the constellations and how these change according to the person's geographical location.

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Christine Copes

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Christine Copes

Christine Copes is a teacher at Waiakea Elementary School. She teaches math for the gifted and talented for third, fourth and fifth graders and is a Resource Teacher at Waiakea, serving as the school's Technology Coordinator and specializing in computer literacy. In this capacity, she oversees the school's computer lab for Grades K-5.

In 1974, Ms. Copes received her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She also holds a teaching degree from the University of Hawai'i, Hilo. She has attended more than 20 courses and workshops specializing in the teaching of science and astronomy, math and environmental issues.

She began her teaching career in 1974 working with autistic children and those with severe behavior disorders at the Special Education Center on Oahu. In 1979, she began teaching Hawai`i field courses for the University of California at Santa Cruz Wilderness Studies Program. In 1985 she joined Hilo High School as a staff teacher for Project Aspire, a Department of Education program to assist under-achieving students. Following teaching in other public schools on the Big Island, she joined Waiakea Elementary School in 1990 as a Resource Teacher specializing in math for the gifted and talented and science. She is also a member of the Office of Mauna Kea Management Astronomy Education Committee.

Ms. Copes says she is attracted to teaching because she enjoys children and imparting knowledge to them. "It's a wonderful thing to see their response," she said. "Science, math, and technology offer incredible advantages for introducing elementary students to the excitement of learning. I think working with them in my field is a truly unique opportunity."

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Jenny Opazo González

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Jenny Opazo González

At 18 years of age, Jenny arrived in La Serena and has remained until the present time. She graduated from the Liceo de Niñas to continue her studies as a Nursery Teacher at the Universidad de Chile, La Serena branch from where she received her degree in 1979.

Her working experience began in Vicuña at the Jardín Infantil Rayitos de Sol where she taught for three years. Later in 1989, she transferred to Jardín Infantil Pillín de Tierras Blancas as Director of the school. Today, more than 120 kids attend the Jardín Infantil de Vista Hermosa where they enjoy her spontaneous personality and charm.

Deeply surprised with the possibility of participating in the StarTeachers program, Jenny Opazo insists that it wasn't her, but her own preschoolers who encouraged her, with their questions, to search for information and training in astronomy. But it wasn't until 1998 when she dared to take her first step, the same step that today is taking her to Hawai`i.

Recently, Jenny participated in the National Seminar of Curricular and Significant Experiences as a representative the region of Coquimbo in Santiago. Jenny has also been selected by the Ministry of Education and TELEDUC (Television to educate) to prepare a video about one of her most innovative projects called "A Day on the Moon." This project was chosen from among many others in a country-wide recognition called "Challenging Experiences" that follows the PreSchool Education Redesign Formula.

Also, thanks to her initiative, her school has a special room where any child under six can explore the Milky Way and even touch and feel objects to learn about such things as temprature.

Jenny is married, and a mother of one child, Felipe who is 8 years old.

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Kristen Luning

Kristen Luning is a math teacher at Keaau High School and serves as Chairperson of the school's Math Department.

She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Hawai`i at Hilo in 1989. She then went on to earn a Master's in Secondary Education from Heritage College in 1992.

She has served as the Chairperson of Keaau High School Math Department since joining the school in 2000. She began her teaching career in 1989 at Naalehu High School. In 1990, she moved to Pahoa High School where she taught math for 10 years before moving to Keeau.

Ms. Luning says one of the reasons she was drawn to apply for the StarTeachers program is that she has had extensive experience in on-line teaching with the Hawai'i Department of Education. In that capacity, she instructed students throughout the state in high school level math courses.

"The concept of StarTeachers feeds right into on-line teaching," she says. "I'm interested in different ways that students can learn, such as on the Internet."

She said is also interested in organizing professional development workshops at Keeau based on her involvement with StarTeachers.

"I expect to meet other teachers in other countries and learn from them what they are doing in their classrooms, working with them and sharing our experiences.

"Out of this, I hope to get the opportunity to create a teacher professional development day based on the input from the Chilean teachers who will be visiting here. I think it's a great opportunity."

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Viviana Calderón Tolmo

Born in La Serena, Chile, Viviana began her studies at Escuela # 2 de Niñas in Vicuña to later continue at Escuela Normal in La Serena from where she graduated as a teacher for elementary and junior high school, with a major in social studies in 1975.

Her first job experience as a teacher was at the Escuela de El Romeral in northern La Serena where she spent one year. After that, her path led her to teach for sixteen years at Colegio Pablo Neruda in Coquimbo from where she emigrated in 1990 to begin a new step in her career. She is now the current Head of the Technical Unit at the Colegio José Cardenal Caro in Coquimbo where she is also the Coordinator of the Astronomy After School Club.

Proud of her selection, Viviana was always eager to learn about astronomy and her enthusiasm was contagious among her colleagues and students at Colegio José Cardenal Caro, a public school of 59 teachers and more than 1600 students.

An active participant of various conferences and workshops in astronomy through the years, her Astronomy Club had an outstanding presentation in last year's National Congress of Astronomy for School Students in Rivadavia, where they presented a paper about "Observing Sunspots."

"Being a teacher, you do your job for love to the children and with great commitment," says Viviana, adding that she never thought she could have access to such a great opportunity. She hopes to get the most out of her visit to Hawai`i as well as from her StarTeachers' partner visit to her school.

Viviana is married and has three children of 20, 27 and 30 years old.

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Press Conference at Gemini North in Hilo, Hawai`i

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Press Conference at Gemini South in La Serena, Chile

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Press Conference at Gemini South in La Serena, Chile

Credit: "Gemini Observatory"

Last updated by on January 28, 2003