Notes from UTeach Nation: Knowles Fellows

Notes from UTeach Nation: Knowles Fellows


Learning to be a great secondary STEM teacher doesn’t stop once you graduate from your UTeach program. Among the opportunities for deep, meaningful professional development and social change through education is the Knowles Fellowship. The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation seeks to improve STEM education through increasing, developing, and supporting secondary STEM teachers. The Foundation offers a prestigious and competitive Teaching Fellowship program, awarded to 35 high school teachers annually.

Knowles Fellows cultivate professional communities with their peers across the country, receive professional development grants and funds for teaching materials, and a summer stipend that allows them to attend seminars and workshops.

Alumni from UTeach programs across the country have had a strong showing in competition for Knowles Fellowships in the past few years. The University of Colorado Boulder alone has yielded eight Knowles Fellows since 2001.

We spoke with three current Knowles Fellows who are also graduates of UTeach programs, each of whom bring different perspectives and objectives to the fellowship.

Ian Caldwell completed his bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics in 2011 at the University of Colorado Boulder and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in 2013 through CUTeach. He received the Knowles fellowship in 2012 and teaches math at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, Arizona. UKanTeach alumna Sara Hettenbach, a 2016 Fellow, teaches biology at Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas. She graduated in 2015 from the University of Kansas with a major in biology. Katrina Cornell, a 2013 postbaccalaureate UTeach Austin student, is a 2014 Knowles Fellow and teaches math at Telluride High School in Telluride, Colorado.

Because the Knowles Fellowship operates in three phases over the five-year period, with an emphasis on deepening Fellows’ content knowledge, reflecting on their teaching practices, and developing as leaders, there are natural benefits borne out in Fellows’ pedagogical approaches and school communities. Says Ian Caldwell, “The support I received from the Knowles Fellowship led directly to my ability to take over as department chair of a new mathematics department in my first year of teaching.”

No one is present for my teaching more than me, so learning to reflect honestly on every aspect of teaching helped accelerate my growth as a teacher. -- Ian Caldwell

In addition to the opportunity to think critically about their teaching practices, Hettenbach and Muir report that the financial aspects of the fellowship have provided access to professional development and classroom supplies that have had positive effects for their students.

In many ways, UTeach alumni are well positioned to become Knowles Fellows due to the foundation they receive in their respective UTeach programs. Because the curriculum is scaffolded all the way from Step 1 through Apprentice Teaching, UTeach alumni enter their teaching careers already trained in reflective teaching practices that enhance student engagement and learning.

“The courses in CUTeach prepared me with a breadth of knowledge about education, taking on both a wide lens and a narrow lens towards learning and the culture of education in America,” says Caldwell. Says Hettenbach, "I really love how the UKanTeach program focuses on inquiry-based learning. They do a great job of making students take an inquiry stance when we are learning about teaching methods as well. Understanding what it feels like to learn in an inquiry-based classroom gives me a better understanding of what my students now are going through, and how I can anticipate their struggles and help them work through it.” Cornell attributes her experiences at UTeach Austin to understanding project-based learning, thinking deeply about student engagement, and grappling with the social justice aspects of education.

Every teacher has their reasons for pursuing a Knowles Fellowship, but the desire to reflect honestly on growing as an educator and making a difference in one’s educational community -- and beyond -- is crucial. “No one enters teaching as a master teacher, but the work we do in the Knowles Fellowship will accelerate your growth as a teacher,” says Caldwell. “If you are ready for that type of work, then you are right for the Knowles Fellowship.”

The deadline to apply for the 2017 Knowles Fellowship is November 27, 2016. If you think you’ve got the passion and skills to join a progressive community of dedicated high-school STEM teachers, you should apply now.