Fellowship offers new teaching opportunity

By Megan Braxmaier | 12/2/12 2:31pm

Courtesy / GVSU Arctic Ecology Program GVSU Graduate student Robert Slider

How does a $30,000 stipend, admission to a master’s degree program at a participating Michigan university and a whole host of other secondary school and guidance, preparation, networking mentoring and support sound? For Grand Valley State University graduate student Robert Slider, that became a reality in June 2011 upon recieving the WK Kellogg Foundation’s Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship, open to students pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

“The fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for those in STEM careers to become a teacher in Michigan’s high-needs secondary schools,” said Caryn King, associate dean of the College of Education and director of the Michigan Teaching Fellowship. “By doing so these individuals give back to their communities.”

The Fellowship is open to college seniors and graduates who will have a Bachelor’s degree by June 30 of 2013, majored in or have a professional background in one of the STEM fields, have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better and have U.S citizenship or permanent residency to have a shot at the fellowship,

For Slider, the $30,000 stipend covering the costs of tuition and living expenses while finishes his biology master’s thesis under Bob Hollister, and assistant professor in the biology department, alongside his master’s in education at GVSU this summer.

“I cannot stress how much the WW Fellowship’s education model prepared me for this year,” Slider said. “There is a huge turnover rate among new teachers, especially in high-needs schools. In part, this is because many enter the classroom ill-prepared for the new world of public education and they get run over. Thanks to the experience I gained last year, I entered the classroom this fall and didn’t get hit by a reality bus.”

Slider first heard about the Fellowship from an email that a friend had forwarded him, and his 3.81 undergraduate GPA and desire to teach made him a perfect candidate. He said the fellowship gave him the opportunity to draw from his research background and apply it in a setting where he could positively affect the lives of others.

“I came to the conclusion that while I enjoyed working with data and being in the arctic tundra, teaching was my true passion,” Slider said. “I also felt strongly compelled to serve those who needed help the most—students in high-needs schools.”

Slider spent the first year of the Fellowship with an intense workload and teaching assignments and he said that although the first year of teaching is said to be the hardest, he owes his professors, coordinators and mentors for preparing him to be the best teacher he could be.

“I stepped into the classroom this fall excited and eager to teach instead of bewildered by the overwhelming number of tasks teachers are charged with on a daily basis,” Slider said. “This year has been going great and on a daily basis I draw on the knowledge and skills I gained from working with my mentor teacher, other fellows, and faculty at GVSU. Teaching is tough and I’m working every day at getting better and better.”

Slider teaches at the West Michigan Academy of Environmental Sciences in Walker, Mich. The school’s focus on integrating environmental science was a perfect fit for Slider, who had the experience of his field research on Arctic plants in Alaska. He said he wants to continue teaching at WMAES and eventually, wants to get students involved in authentic research projects with Hollister and other researchers in the area.

“To really make an impact you have to be ready to start living for your students — that’s a tough philosophy to embrace when you’re miles from the starting line and have many more left to go, but it’s a hallmark of good educators,” Slider said. “Teaching is an endurance profession and this program is designed to develop individuals with the passion, dedication, and follow-through necessary to make a difference. For those out there who are ready to dig-in, this is a tremendous opportunity.”

This year’s application deadline for the WK Kellogg Foundation’s Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship is Jan. 23.

infobox ——
Caryn King, kingc@gvsu.edu
Barbara LeBeau, labeaub@gvsu.edu

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