Two WW Fellows receive STARs Fellowship
Two Fellows from different Woodrow Wilson programs, separated by nearly a decade, participated in research at a U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory this summer. The educators were two in 40 selected for the 2014 Siemens Teachers as Researchers (STARs) Fellowship, supported by the Siemens Foundation and Discovery Education.
Christine Brothers WT ’00 is an alumna of the Leadership Program for Teachers, one of the Foundation’s early forays into professional development for teachers, while Zachary Blackwood TF ’09 was a member of the inaugural class of Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows.
During the two two-week STARs programs, fellows worked in small groups with scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ms. Brothers worked on a study examining the use of genetic modification in plants, while Mr. Blackwood worked on evolutionary computational problem-solving models.
Ms. Brothers, a science teacher for 20 years, has been the head of the science department at Falmouth (Massachusetts) High School for the past 13 years and now teaches AP environmental science. As a Wilson Teacher in summer 2000, she participated in the Foundation’s Environmental Science Institute, one of many month-long residential institutes for teachers conducted by Woodrow Wilson from the 1980s through the early 2000s.
“All summer [at STARs] I was thinking about the things I did at Woodrow Wilson,” says Ms. Brothers. “The research was directly related.”
Mr. Blackwood completed his master’s coursework and clinical experience in Purdue University’s program for Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows, which focuses on preparing teachers for high-need rural schools. Now beginning his fifth year in the class room, Mr. Blackwood teaches physics, computer science, and principles of engineering at Lewis Cass Junior Senior High School in Walton, Indiana. He also sponsors the FIRST robotics team and the science club.
Both Mr. Blackwood and Ms. Brothers cited the importance of lifelong learning in their pursuit of the STARs fellowship. “Teachers should be constantly learning,” Mr. Blackwood says. “The more opportunities they take to experience science and engineering for themselves, the better they will be able to explain to and motivate their students.”
As a veteran teacher, Ms. Brothers applauds professional development programs that put teachers back into the role of students, like the Woodrow Wilson’s erstwhile Leadership Program for Teachers and the STARs program offered by Siemens. “In the lab we’re in an unfamiliar situation learning something new,” she notes. “That’s where our students are every day.”
Today’s Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows complete both a rigorous curriculum and a full school year of experience in classrooms like the ones where they will ultimately teach. They also receive three years of ongoing support and mentoring to smooth their transition into their own classrooms. Each partner campus in the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships tailors its program both to meet the Foundation’s high standards and to ensure that Fellows are prepared to succeed in the classroom and stay in the profession.
Ms. Brothers points out that teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM fields) teach much more than just science and math. Lessons taught in STEM classrooms, such as problem solving, communication, and how to work with others, can stay with students forever. “A big challenge being a teacher is students’ asking, ‘Why do we need to know this?’ If we can make these connections to the real world, it becomes much more valuable to kids.”
“The most important things that a teacher can do for students is to teach them to think and to reason,” says Mr. Blackwood. “I believe that STEM classes are a great tool for doing just that.”
This story appeared in our Fall 2014 newsletter. To view the full newsletter online, click here.