Kenan Fellows Program Grows Partnership with Facebook to Advance K-12 STEM Workforce Education in Western North Carolina

December 17th, 2019 by Amneris Solano

Pictured from left to right are Mark Townley, program manager of the Kenan Fellows Program; Tyler Honeycutt, Kenan Fellow, Donna Pyatt, Kenan Fellow, Jennifer Allsbrook, Kenan Fellow, Elaine Franklin, director of the Kenan Fellows Program, Tom House, Kenan Fellow, Austin Hedden, Kenan Fellow, and Amanda Clapp, Kenan Fellow.

RALEIGH, NC — The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership is pleased to announce it has received a grant from Facebook to support two teachers in Western North Carolina who will receive leadership training to drive innovations in STEM education and help students build career-ready skills. Earlier this fall, a group of 2019-20 Kenan Fellows toured the Facebook Forest City Data Center to continue making connections between their classrooms and the local workforce. This deeper and expansive partnership between Facebook and the Kenan Fellows Program will make a lasting impact in Western NC.

The two teachers will be selected from the Henderson, Rutherford, Polk, McDowell, or Cleveland county school systems. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 27, 2020. To apply, visit kenanfellows.org/application-process. The awards will be announced in May during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

The Kenan Fellows Program connects outstanding educators with mentors in local industry and business settings, creating opportunities that build meaningful relationships. Kenan Fellows spend three weeks on-site with their mentor company in a summer internship where they make relevant connections between their classroom and authentic STEM practices in the workplace. Over the course of the fellowship, educators develop a deeper understanding of local industries, their workforce needs, and how they can make relevant connections for their students.

“The industry-education partnerships created by our program address the need to make stronger connections between desirable workforce skills and classroom content. By bridging the divide, educators can provide students with first-hand knowledge of viable career pathways to help fuel economic engines with local talent,” said Elaine Franklin, director of the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership. “We are proud to have support from Facebook to be able to reach and empower more teachers in this part of the state.”

Since Facebook’s Forest City Data Center began serving traffic in 2012, Facebook has been committed to supporting nonprofits and schools in Rutherford, Cleveland, McDowell, and Polk counties that improve STEM education.

“The Kenan Fellows Program provides life-changing, long-term impact for both teachers and their students, and that’s why Facebook is investing in the organization,” said Katie Comer, Facebook Regional Community Development Manager. “We believe in the power of STEM education and are thrilled to be able to provide resources and training for Forest City-area teachers so that students can be college and career-ready.”

The fellowships are awarded through a competitive application process. Once selected, educators will develop curriculum and teaching resources that bring workforce preparedness and cutting-edge research into the hands of students. As part of the fellowship, the educators participate in two residential professional learning institutes focused on project-based learning, digital learning, and leadership development. Teachers who complete the program say they feel a deeper connection to their community and grow professionally as part of a statewide network of teacher leaders. As their leadership skills grow, Fellows lead pro-actively within their schools and their districts. Many become empowered to influence and lead educational innovation at state and national levels.

“Before I became a Kenan Fellow, I knew the program gave teachers the opportunity to network and develop their overall understanding of local industries. That is a great opportunity for any educator in any part of the state, but especially in small communities like mine where building stronger ties between schools and businesses is critical to bolstering the economy and developing the local workforce,” said 2019-20 Kenan Fellow Austin Hedden, who teaches math and science at Hayesville High School in Clay County Schools.