The four-day South by Southwest Education conference, or SXSW EDU, begins March 6 in Austin, and several San Antonio-area educators will participate in panel discussions and special presentations.

Event organizers said SXSW EDU—which precedes the main South by Southwest interactive, music and film festival—focuses on a range of issues affecting education.

Career development

March 7 will feature a panel with two San Antonians discussing CTE CyberNet, a national cybersecurity professional development initiative.

Robbie Harris, assistant principal at St. Philip’s College Early College High School, and San Antonio College computer science professor Kim Muschalek will join in the chat about how five Career Technical Education CyberNet Academies developed tools to prepare students for the cybersecurity careers.

Muschalek, coordinator of San Antonio College’s computer information science program, is part of the San Antonio CTE Academy, led by SAC. She said the nationwide CTE CyberNet initiative seeks to strengthen cybersecurity education in U.S. high schools through local teacher professional development academies.

“[Academy] participants will gain the skills and resources needed to effectively prepare students for cybersecurity education and careers,” Muschalek said.

Harris said her CTE CyberNet Academy experience in 2020 inspired her to begin a program, Cyber Friday, at her St. Philip’s College campus where she reaches out to technology companies and organizations to come talk about themselves and connect with students.

“This was extremely useful and gave students a real-world perspective,” Harris said.

March 7 also features a panel including University of Texas at San Antonio associate professor Langston Clark, James Cooper of local coding bootcamp CodeUp, and Holmes High School alum Jermaine Malcolm.

This panel is an extension of Clark’s podcast African Americans in Sport Podclass, which explores the African American sporting experience.

At the panel, Clark will hear from Cooper, Malcolm and Nike executive Racquel King, all of whom are former Division 1 student-athletes who successfully transitioned into the corporate, nonprofit and entrepreneurship workforce.

Clark said the “podclass” idea came from his recording guest speakers in his classes and sharing those podcasts with students.

“I wanted to create a space where these former student-athletes can explain the pathways for a Black student-athlete to get into a career using the real-life skills they learned in the classroom and not on the [playing] field,” Clark said.

Having worked with Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio and the local My Brother’s Keeper program, Malcolm founded Student-Athlete Co. to connect youths with college student-athletes for training and mentorship to maximize their potential in life and athletics.

Malcolm recalled how a coach convinced him, a student-athlete at Holmes, to take certain steps toward securing collegiate scholarship opportunities.

“That process radically changed my mindset and understanding of how important relevant mentorship is, and getting an inspirational leader in your community to connect with you and what that can do for you, especially living in a low-income community,” Malcolm said.

In addition to working at CodeUp, Cooper is a certified strengths coach. He said, contrary to popular belief among some people, student-athletes are complicated thinkers who are also extremely intelligent, but such perceptions trip up student-athletes as they seek to transition to post-scholastic life.

“My career as an athlete has directly contributed to all of my professional accomplishments in terms of strategic planning, persuasion, execution and connection development,” Cooper said. “In our capacity as ex-athletes, we must do a better job of recognizing the intellectualism that comes with being an athlete. Far too many of us feel lost after we stop playing sports, and that should never be the case."


Trinity University Associate Professor Heather Haynes Smith will serve as a mentor for one hour March 6 at SXSW EDU.

Smith said she enjoys attending SXSW EDU because of the number of different kinds of participants who share their professional experiences and ideas.

“I’ve been attending conferences for years, but this is the only one there’s been a large diversity of thought and opinion,” Smith said.

Special education

Veronica Mechler, Northside ISD’s special education director, will be part of a March 8 panel focused on increasing digital inclusion for all students.

Mechler said the COVID-19 pandemic and early challenges with virtual classes emphasized a need to ensure disabled students have access to quality instructional services and support.

“It’s more than just about technology. In remote learning, a disabled student doesn’t do well by having a teacher talk to them and they’re just sitting there,” Mechler said.

Opioid crisis

Dr. Lisa Cleveland, a professor at the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, will be in a March 7 panel discussing organized efforts to reduce opioid misuse and overdose among youth through public health programs.

Since 2018, the UTHSASON has been operating a federally funded, state-run overdose prevention and Naloxone distribution program, which has provided more than 700,000 doses of Naloxone across 60% of Texas’ 254 counties.

However, Cleveland said fentanyl-related deaths have begun to greatly affect Texans, including school-aged children, adding that an increasing number of Texas schools have requested Naloxone doses and overdose prevention training for employees.

“Fentanyl, a synthetically produced opioid, is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin,” she said.

Here are other scheduled SXSW EDU events involving San Antonio-area participants:

  • A March 6 conversation about creating inclusive spaces for transgender students will include Ginger Chun, an official with the Transgender Education Network of Texas who has been active in San Antonio’s LGBT community.
  • Dawn Kulpa, San Antonio ISD’s executive director for social, emotional and academic development, will be part of a March 7 panel on how school districts nationwide have heavily invested in social emotional learning curriculum as a way to boost student and teacher well-being and academic recovery following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A March 9 panel about school safety will involve Kimberly Mata-Rubio, a Uvalde journalist whose daughter Lexi was among the 19 students killed in the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary School. Mata-Rubio has since become an advocate for gun safety laws, and leader of the group Lives Robbed, which campaigns for common sense gun laws.
  • Amanda Mukengeshayi, strategic initiatives manager at the UTSA School of Data Science, will be in a March 9 panel discussing the future of data talent development in Web 3.0, the next iteration of the web.

Official SXSW EDU functions are open to badge-holders and attendees with day passes that are available at the conference registration site at the Austin Convention Center.