The ABE Program Office is proud and excited to launch the inaugural cohort of the ABE Master Teacher Fellowship, with its first meeting taking place this month. Among a highly competitive field of applicants, 12 Fellows representing 10 program sites and three ABE regions were recently chosen to receive a stipend to support development of a biotech curriculum “passion project” that focuses on cutting-edge content and technologies, inclusive classrooms and pedagogy, and equity in STEM fields. Fellows will have access to experts from Amgen staff and other STEM-focused organizations around the world, and will set and reflect on their own goals for leadership. After the intensive 1-year program, Fellows will share their expertise and curriculum with the ABE international community. Fellows will provide peer advice and guidance on how to teach ABE while engaging students and connecting them with real-world, real-time applications for ABE content and skills.
The initiative has been in development for a few years, initially stemming from data gathered during the ABE Teacher Recognition pilot back in 2016. Surveys from ABE teachers that year made clear that while classroom supplies and community-building events are very welcome and strengthen the program, teachers particularly value the opportunity to learn and grow themselves. Jessica Juliuson, ABE director of professional development and networking, notes, “Teachers told us that being perceived as experts who possess an essential body of content knowledge and expertise is something they don’t always experience; therefore, fellowships, sabbaticals, postgraduate coursework—all these options were things that teachers said would ‘feed’ them as professionals.” Teachers also reported feeling most valued when peers recognized them for their work, including building leaders and other teacher colleagues. “Affirmation means the most when it comes from someone who knows what you do,” noted one teacher.
Teacher applications were exceptionally competitive, with a field of candidates ranging from veteran classroom teacher leaders to published authors and doctors. The experiences described by applicants were extensive, including working with preservice teachers, hosting science symposia, creating a biotechnology pathway in a large urban high school, and collaboration with Scuba Dogs. Applicants shared their passion for biotechnology and for teaching, with one applicant describing the importance of innovative new classroom tools, arguing, “The interactivity and visually engaging nature of … digital tools is key to enhancing and deepening student understanding of sometimes abstract and difficult concepts and processes.” Another applicant wrote vividly about the intersection of science literacy and social justice, saying, “Learning the skills and concepts of biotechnology will enable my students to become part of the force that will improve our human experiences … for my students, learning about science is a matter of liberation.”
Fellows will develop their curriculum projects and meet for the next 6 months, culminating in presentations to the international ABE community in June 2021. As one Fellow told us, “My partnership with ABE has been essential to the work. … I always like to find ways to give back to a program I believe in.”