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Students, Colleagues Mourn Teacher Credited with Catapulting STEM Program

NBCUniversal, Inc.

An East Dallas Middle School is mourning the loss of a beloved teacher credited for putting its STEM Academy on the world stage. Great educators have a way of leaving a lasting impact. That’s what Eliana Tseng did for her students at Robert T. Hill Middle School in Dallas.

Former student Maya Masters-Fairman joined others on the steps of the school Wednesday night to remember Mrs. Tseng. She died unexpectedly last week, leaving colleagues and students heartbroken.

“I always kind of pictured that she would be writing recommendations for me forever and that she would be at my high school graduation next year,” said Masters-Fairman. “And now we’re here for her today.”

Tseng was not only a teacher but a leader of the school’s STEM program. Her passion was evident by the 40+ trophies her STEM and Robotics team won in just the last nine years.

It was so important for Maya to be here that she drove with her mother from Atlanta. Maya’s mother Natalie Masters said they packed up the car and made the 12-hour drive as soon as they heard the news. Tseng had made that much of a difference in her daughter’s life.

“She learned to code when she was 12 because of Mrs. Tseng. The opportunities, the interests, Maya’s future career, what she thinks she can do and the way she sees herself all impacted by Mrs. Tseng,” she said.

Several people shared memories about Mrs. Tseng – who she was a mentor, friend, coworker, and leader in a field where women had been historically underrepresented.

According to the Pew Research Center, STEM occupations among women are widely varied. Based on its findings, women are overrepresented in health-related jobs and underrepresented in physical science, computer jobs and engineering.

Based on employed adults ages 25 and older, women make up 74% of healthcare practitioners and technicians. Women represent just 15% of engineers and architects.

School Principal Candice Ruiz said she’s had conversations with Tseng about representation and where the Academy was headed.

“At one point we talked about naming our STEM program and she said, ‘it’s going to have to be after woman, there’s so many great women,’” said Ruiz. “She would have the students research and let the students know there was a possibility.”

The STEM Academy symbol remains hanging in the window of Mrs. Tseng’s classroom. It serves as a reminder of a teacher who told students at a middle school tucked away in East Dallas, they could be anything.

“Everything that she told me I could be that I didn’t necessarily see myself as, that’s where I’m heading,” said Masters-Fairman. “I wish she could see it.”

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