hile students are on break, teachers are spending their summer or spring taking part in fellowships, programs where teachers further their understanding about the subjects that they teach. Science teacher Emily Fitzgerald spent five days in Philadelphia, PA at the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation fellowship while history teacher Bonnie Belshe attended Mount Vernon Research fellowship in Mount Vernon, VA for a week.
Teachers who participate in fellowships get the opportunity to learn about specific topics that they may not have gotten the chance to study elsewhere. Many of these teachers choose to implement what they learned into their classes at MVHS.
“Some of the things we [learned]about were equity issues, how to make things more equitable for all the students in our classes,” Fitzgerald said. “[We also] talked about what it means for a student to do be a doer of math and science [and what it means]for a student to be acting like a chemist in a chemistry class.”
While Fitzgerald’s fellowship was centered around learning about different methods of teaching, Belshe’s focused on further researching into her history classes at MVHS.
Fellowships are rather popular among teachers because of the unique opportunities that they present. As such, they can be very hard to get accepted into. Just as students are applying for summer internships, teachers are applying for fellowships to get themselves prepared for the coming school years.
“Two years ago is when I first found out about it [… but] I already had future camps lined up for that summer so I decided to wait until this last year and applied,” Belshe said. “A little over 500 people applied and 5 were accepted.”
Most fellowships are individually funded by people who want to invest into those fellowships. Consequently, teachers are given the chance to meet some of the famous people who help run the research programs or help fund the programs they go to.
“Harry Knowles invented the barcode scanner and he got a lot money from doing that,” Fitzgerald said. “[To give back] he wanted to invest in math and science teachers because he felt [that it was the]math and science teachers that had led him to be so successful [and he put this money]into starting this fellowship program.”
To make it easier for teachers to continue their research, fellowships are spread across multiple years to ensure that teachers get the time they need to finalize their lesson plans.
“I already have some of the sources but the plan is the following year,” Belshe said. “This first week I was there it was just the gathering of sources. I was just meeting with everyone I could, talking with all of them, tons of research time, now I need this next year to process it, and there’s a ton to process.”
Pulling from what they’ve learned, teachers are spending the rest of the school year trying to finalize lesson plans for the following school year. Fitzgerald has already started implementing her new plans into this year’s chemistry classes, including an improved grading system.
“It was just a really great experience and it was really honoring to be chosen because it is such a prestigious program in the entire United States,” Fitzgerald said. “I am excited for the 5 years of continuous support and in addition to the meetings they give you more money so that you can have more professional development in other places too.”