Home » Kentucky teacher one of only 9 selected for National STEM Scholar Program

Kentucky teacher one of only 9 selected for National STEM Scholar Program

Kourtney Taylor

Kourtney Taylor, a teacher at Lincoln County Middle School, is one of nine middle school teachers from eight states 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.

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 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.

STEM Scholars will convene on WKU’s campus May 26-June 1 for a week of advanced STEM training and will finalize their projects with input from their STEM Scholar class colleagues.

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 levels. 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 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.”

With the program now in its ninth year, there are 90 National STEM Scholars representing middle schools in 35 states: 91% teach in public schools, 41% teach in mid- to high-poverty schools, and 39% teach in communities with a population under 15,000.

In addition to Taylor, the teachers participating in the 2024 program include:

  • Katie Duff, Manhattan, Ill. – Manhattan Junior High School
  • Heather Febres, Orlando, Fla. – Pershing K-8 School
  • Angela Kopp, Overland Park, Kan. – Holy Cross Catholic School
  • Bridget McDonald, Katy, Texas. – Beckendorff Junior High School
  • Sarah Nelson Wiese, Omaha, Neb. – Bryan Middle School
  • Samantha Poll, Hampden, Maine – Samuel L. Wagner Middle School
  • Nicole Slowik, Vestavia Hills, Ala. – Liberty Park Middle School
  • Eliza Vela, San Antonio, Texas – Longfellow Middle School