SECME Featured School
November 2023

School Name: Ponce De Leon Middle School
School District: Miami Dade, Florida

Background Information on School
Ponce De Leon Middle School is a Title 1 School located in Coral Gables, Miami, Florida. It caters to a diverse student population, including IB, Gifted, Regular, English Language Learners, and Special Education students. Ponce De Leon has achieved recognition as one of the Top 10 Magnet IB Programs by Magnet Schools of America. In 2023, it was designated a STEM GOLD School and received the Florida Green School designation from The Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Ponce De Leon offers a range of Advanced Honors High School Courses in subjects like Physical Science Honors, Algebra 1 Honors, Geometry Honors, and AP Spanish.

Ponce De Leon’s journey to GOLD Excellence in STEM began with SECME in 2004, with an initial participation of 40-50 students. Over the years, the school expanded its SECME involvement, incorporating SECME competitions into science classes and encouraging students to participate. The best teams from each class compete for the school trophy, and school winners represent Ponce at the Regional SECME Olympiad. Since 2004, Ponce De Leon has won a total of 64 awards (Gold, Silver, and Bronze) in various SECME categories at the Regionals and even secured a National Gold in the Banner category in 2022. The school participated in the SECME Nationals Competition in the Mousetrap Car category successfully at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, in June 2023. Ponce De Leon Middle School’s SECME journey has been marked by dedication and continuous improvement, with a focus on adhering to SECME National Guidelines.

Ponce Engineers and the SECME Olympiad
Ponce Engineers eagerly anticipate the SECME Olympiad each year, working diligently to improve their innovations. They attend Saturday Engineering Seminars at institutions like the University of Miami, Florida International University, St. Thomas University, and other locations. This commitment has resulted in the developing of cutting-edge projects aligned with SECME guidelines.

The SECME Program Leadership
The SECME program at Ponce De Leon Middle School has been led by Ms. Deepali Verma since 2004. Ms. Verma is the SECME Coordinator and a Certified IB Gifted Science Educator. Her accolades include winning the Beckman Coulter Miami-Dade County Public School (MDCPS) Middle School Science Teacher of the Year in 2012, MDCPS SECME Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2017, and being a PAEMST (Presidential Award for Excellence for Mathematics and Science Teaching) Nominee for 2019.

Ms. Verma describes SECME as a labor of love, requiring dedicated effort, including Saturdays and many hours after school. The impact of SECME is evident in the success of its alums, who have gone on to pursue higher education in prestigious institutions, often with scholarships. Additionally, Ponce De Leon Middle School/SECME alums return to inspire and encourage current students when they are in town.

SECME Coordinator: Ms. Deepali Verma