School is back in session! At least for the new class selected by the North Carolina Leadership Association (NCSLA) for their esteemed Science Leadership Fellows Program. Standout science educators and leaders from across the state were chosen to join their peers in a program to enhance professional competence and develop the skills necessary to excel in leadership positions in science education.
Alisa Wickliff, Associate Director at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Center for STEM Education and chair of the NCSLA Fellows Committee, describes the selection process as rigorous and the resulting fellows as truly exceptional. “The selection process relies upon an application that includes a questionnaire, letters of recommendation, and a video describing their leadership qualities and characteristics,” says Wickliff. “We consider their past work but also their current direction in teaching content and leadership roles in their region.” The selection team seeks out those with demonstrated innovation and creativity in STEM education, and they found 16 who shined brighter than their competitors.
The Fellows Program is open to any science teachers, LEA science supervisors, administrators, informal educators, and even leaders in science industries who also work in science education, and every two years, only a handful of Fellows are chosen. This cohort meets for a kickoff weekend to address leadership theory, development, and practice for NC STEM educators, discuss how to effect change in policy, and participate in team building exercises that facilitate communication and a sense of community that will flourish throughout the year. The Fellows are put through their paces, says Wickliff, using a Making Change Happen exercise. “This simulation introduces the Fellows to the concepts of change for individuals and how this may affect a community. Since this is the first time many have thought about the change process in all its complexity, they are motivated to return to their jobs and apply what they have learned in their school, district, or workplace.”
Beyond the initial workshop, the Fellows meet for sessions for which they prepare reading, writing, and research projects to share. They follow each meeting with post-session projects that demonstrate they have synthesized what they’ve learned and are ready to practice it in the real world. Of course, beyond these sessions, an invaluable resource is the networking opportunity. “It is amazing how well and how spontaneously participants share resources, ideas, and emotional support with their peers,” says Wickliff. Noting that because Fellows come from a variety of regions—urban, rural, large, and small—Wickliff continues that “there is great diversity in discussions and problem-solving. And, because the focus is on leadership, the Fellows can deep dive into their roles as STEM educators in their respective districts informed by like and different experiences of all cohort members.”
The incoming class of Science Leadership Fellows include these stellar educators, administrators, and leaders:
- Kayla Boykin – A passionate advocate for students interacting with real-world science, Kayla has served Johnston County as a science teacher from elementary to high school. She now serves as the science specialist for K-8 and hopes to excite both students and teachers to explore the natural world.
- Krista Brinchek – Krista’s goal as a Science Specialist at Abbots Creek Elementary School is to combine environmental science, citizen science, project based learning, and community service to create a learning experience that is “authentic, meaningful, and relevant.” Krista has been recognized for her leadership with the NC Environmental Educator of the Year Award and the NC Outstanding Earth Science Educator Award.
- Morgan Carney – Morgan is the STEM Coordinator at Brogden Middle School in Durham, but also has experience facilitating project based learning with teachers at the Museum of Natural Sciences. Before settling down in Durham, Morgan enjoyed teaching around the world from California to India, DC to Nicaragua.
- Emmaleigh Carpenter – Initially bound for a career in wildlife biology, Emmaleigh found education almost by accident, but fell in love with teaching and now can’t imagine a different life. She has taught 6th through 8th grade science at Foothills Community School for three years and hopes that the Fellows Program broadens her horizons into educational leadership.
- Leanne Daughtry – Leanne began her career teaching 2nd and 4th grade science in Johnston County, but has left the classroom in favor of to work with teachers and the districts Academically and Intellectually Gifted program. Her passion is to help teachers by creating powerful learning experiences for students, and she does so through tailored development sessions including for the NC Council of Teachers of Mathematics and Meredith Math and Science Institutes.
- Adam Haas – Adam has had the pleasure of teaching his entire career at Rocky River Elementary in Monroe. In the classroom, he teaches all 500 students at the school and outside the classroom, he enjoys running both the STEM Club and STEM fair.
- Pepper Hill – As the founder and owner of Science Alliance of Eastern NC, Pepper brings the wonders of the natural and human-made world to students and families who aren’t able to access museums or science centers from their rural homes. She is Franklin Institute Leap into Science educator and a 2019 Smart Start Children’s Champion honoree.
- Emily Lahr – A dedicated and innovative, Emily teaches a number of science and research classes at Greene Central High School where she also coaches volleyball and soccer. She advocates for student science research, coaches other STEM educators, and immerses her students in hands-on experiences that spark lifelong passion for science.
- Alexis Moore – Currently the Elementary STEM Teacher for Durham Public School’s Ignite Online Academy, Alexis has nearly 10 years elementary teaching experience. When not in the classroom, she collaborates with Discovery Education Network, AKA Sorority Inc, the UNCG STEM Teacher-Leader Collaborative, and her own non-profit foundation, Moore’s maSTErMinds.
- Betty Jo Moore – Betty Jo is a 6th grade science teacher at a STEAM magnet, but her thirst for learning and teaching extends well beyond the classroom. She has participated in a number of space-related academies including NASA LiftOff2016 and served as educator at a STEAM program in China, a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison, and as coach of both the Robotics Club and the Science Olympiad.
- Jessica Parker – Having earned her BA, MA, and NC Administrator Certification from North Carolina universities, Jessica has served the students of Cabarrus County since 2003. She teaches high school Honors Biology, AP Environmental Science, and Forensic Science (among others) as well as teaching Life Sciences at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College for the past eight years.
- Ashley Randolph – Ashley is a physical science teacher at McDowell Academy for Innovation in Marion. Originally from Ohio, Ashley is excited for the opportunities the Fellows Program provides and is eager to work with new colleagues to creatively integrate STEM into their lessons.
- Suzanne Raxter – Having grown up in the great outdoors of West Virginia, Suzanne has always had a curious mind and a love for nature. Among her goals as the K-5 STEAM Teacher at Hawks Nest STEM Academy in Gaston is to ensure that all her students deserve quality science education and the tools and guidance to develop critical thinking and literacy. She engages students in class but also as coach for Lego League Robotics and the Science Olympiad.
- Jennifer Redfearn – A North Carolina native, Jennifer taught science for 7 years before turning her sights to science education pedagogy. Today, she serves as the STEM Coordinator for Guilford County Schools where she works with other STEM and education professionals to provide invaluable resources to students and teachers.
- Emma Refvem – Following a decade teaching Earth and Environmental Science, Emma currently works in the office of Curriculum and Instruction for Durham Public Schools where she helps other teachers integrate literacy best practices into their instruction. She describes her classroom style as “silly” but takes very serious “the joy and genius of high school students” and is working on her PhD, a study of how informal science experiences can influence career motivations in science and science teaching.
- Ahura Webb – After graduating from Claflin University with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry, Ahura launched her career as a microbiologist for a pharmaceutical company. However, after witnessing the inequities in education, she spent a year with Teach for America and obtained her license from ECU in 2019. She is thrilled to be the 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Reaching All Minds STEM Academy where she can serve as a positive role model for her students.
Alumni of this dynamic program continue to engage in NCSLA serving on committees and participating in leadership roles in other organizations such as NCSTA, NSTA, and NSLA. They also continue to share their knowledge with peers through professional development presentations throughout the state, focusing on STEM education research and practice.