Mercer’s Fourth Class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows Recognized at State Capitol

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Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows 2019

ATLANTA – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp today at the State Capitol announced Mercer University’s fourth and final class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows.

The successful five-year partnership between the state and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has strengthened Georgia’s ongoing commitment to close the achievement gap and provide all students with high-quality teachers by preparing nearly 200 outstanding beginning educators to lead science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes in high-need secondary schools.

In addition to Mercer, Columbus State University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University and Piedmont College have participated in the fellowship program, which began in 2014.

“As governor, I am committed to providing a world-class education to Georgia students, regardless of their ZIP code, and we need the best and brightest educators to reach this objective,” Gov. Kemp said. “I am deeply grateful for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s efforts to improve our teacher pipeline, and I applaud the incoming class of fellows for accepting the call to public service.”

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship focuses on preparing top-quality educators for many of Georgia’s most underserved public schools. Each fellow receives $20,000 to complete a specially designed, cutting-edge master’s degree program based on a yearlong classroom experience. In return, fellows commit to teach for three years in the urban and rural Georgia schools that most need strong STEM teachers. Throughout the three-year commitment, fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring.

“Five years ago, the Georgia Teaching Fellowship began its work to help close the state’s achievement gap and ensure the best STEM educators possible for all learners,” Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Rajiv Vinnakota said. “We are proud of the nearly 200 educators who have been part of this program to date and applaud Gov. Kemp, our university and K-12 partners and the Woodruff Foundation for their collective commitment to improve the quality and size of Georgia’s teacher pipeline.”

Mercer’s fourth class of fellows consists of nine recent graduates or career-changers with strong backgrounds in the STEM disciplines. They include Jamie Hurd Baggett from Fayetteville, North Carolina; Laurice Chao from Arcadia, California; Rodney Davis from Cleveland, Ohio; Alexa Gaston from Atlanta; Brianna Harris from Chicago, Illinois; Adam Landin from Albany; Alec Powers from Thomson; Erik Sylvain from Jackson; and Akinmayowa Akinkunmi from Douglasville. Sylvain (CLA ’18) and Landin (CLA ’19) previously earned undergraduate degrees in math and chemistry, respectively, from Mercer.

“We are so proud of the work our fellows are doing in Georgia schools,” said Dr. Thomas R. Koballa Jr., dean of Mercer’s College of Education. “They are committed to improving the lives of their students.”

Additionally, Mercer and the Bibb County School District were recognized by Gov. Kemp for extending this program through the recently announced Mercer Bibb STEM Teaching Fellowship. This new program to recruit and enroll a cohort of five highly qualified teaching candidates, beginning in summer 2020, will be based on the clinical STEM M.A.T. model developed for the Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows program. The five fellows who will participate in the program will commit to three years of full-time employment as teacher of record in a Bibb County middle or high school.

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship has helped transform teacher preparation in Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Georgia program brings the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s total commitment to the fellowship to more than $100 million nationally. Woodrow Wilson is administering the program, with in-state coordination by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education  and support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. Current project funding is $13.7 million.

All university partners, initially selected in a statewide review by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, spent years tailoring their teacher preparation programs to meet the fellowship’s standards for intensive clinical work and rigorous related coursework. All five participating universities received $400,000 matching grants to develop their teacher preparation programs based on standards set by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation has partnered with a wide range of school districts across the state on this effort. Mercer’s partners include the Bibb County School District, Dodge County Schools, Houston County Schools and Monroe County Schools.

About the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.

About the College of Education

Mercer University’s Tift College of Education – with campuses in Macon, Atlanta and the University’s two regional academic centers – prepares more professional educators than any other private institution in Georgia. Named for the former women’s college that merged with Mercer in 1986, the College of Education offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and is guided by the conceptual framework of the “Transforming Educator,” which supports those who aspire to grow professionally throughout their careers, while also seeking to transform the lives of students. For more information, visit education.mercer.edu.

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Kyle Sears