Home » Three Kentucky middle school teachers selected as 2023 National STEM Scholars

Three Kentucky middle school teachers selected as 2023 National STEM Scholars

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Three Kentucky middle school teachers are among ten teachers from eight states who have been selected to participate in the prestigious National STEM Scholar Program, a unique professional development program providing advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) training, national network building and project support for middle school science teachers nationwide.

The three Kentucky participants include:

  • James “JJ” Frye, Leitchfield, KY – Grayson County Middle School
  • Jennifer “Jenny” McCall, Lexington, KY – Winburn Middle School
  • Teresa Robertson, Munfordville, KY – Munfordville Elementary School

Created in partnership between the National Stem Cell Foundation and The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University (WKU), the National STEM Scholar Program selects ten teachers each year from a national pool of applicants based solely on the description of a “big idea” Challenge Project the applicant would implement in their classroom if funds were available. Selected projects are chosen for maximum impact in middle school classrooms where research shows lifelong STEM career decisions are being made. STEM Scholars convene on WKU’s campus for a week of advanced STEM training and finalize their projects with input from their STEM Scholar class colleagues.

The 2023 National STEM Scholar class will be hosted by The Gatton Academy from May 29th to June 2nd on the campus of WKU in Bowling Green, KY. The other seven National STEM Scholars include:

  • Laura Cummings, Haleiwa, HI – Sunset Beach Elementary School
  • Emily Harer, St. Paul, MN – Global Arts Plus – Upper Campus
  • Erin Hullinger, Buxton, ME – Bonny Eagle Middle School
  • Patricia “Pati” Huntington, San Diego, CA – Farb Middle School
  • Michele Mitnitsky, Sanibel, FL – The Sanibel School
  • Sarah StCyr, Sulphur, LA – W.W. Lewis Middle School
  • Kandice Taylor, Jackson, MS – Brinkley Middle School

Studies show that middle school students who become excited about science are the ones who will pursue STEM courses in high school and major in them at the technical and college level. At a pivotal time in decision-making that will open or close the door to opportunity, however, nearly 50% of 8th graders in America lose interest in pursuing the STEM-related subjects increasingly required for 21st-century jobs.

Dr. Paula Grisanti, CEO of the National Stem Cell Foundation, said, “We added education to our mission and partnered with The Gatton Academy in 2015 to support the development of a new generation of scientists in academic research, advanced technology, and infrastructure engineering. Supporting teachers who inspire and motivate middle school students at this critical decision-making age will directly impact how many choose to pursue the STEM skills essential for living-wage jobs. By investing in the influential middle school STEM teacher now, we reach thousands of students in classrooms today and far into the future.”

Dr. Julia Link Roberts, Executive Director of The Gatton Academy, added, “This partnership will accrue benefits for the National STEM Scholars, middle school students in their classrooms, and the middle school science teachers with whom they collaborate. The National STEM Scholar Program is an excellent way for teachers to learn new strategies and new ways to engage students to help them become and stay interested in science and math.”

Now in its 8th year, 80 National STEM Scholars represent middle schools in 33 states. 91% teach in public schools, 41% teach in mid- to high-poverty schools and 38% teach in communities with a population under 15,000. A unique requirement of the program is the responsibility for STEM Scholars to share lessons learned with colleagues in their home schools, districts or states, magnifying impact over multiple classrooms and years. By June 2023, National STEM Scholars will have directly and indirectly impacted more than 104,000 middle school students in the U.S.

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