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I’ve Got Big Shoes To Fill

When I decided to apply for the Kenan Fellows Program this year, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. The KFP felt like an abstraction out of my reach, a well-revered fellowship program for STEM teachers in North Carolina with an elite group of alumni who have gone on to collect accolades and accomplish great things within and beyond our state.

As I thought about the application process, I reflected on how I would be following in the footsteps of the great teachers who have come before me. Doubts grew in my head. Am I a good teacher, really? Do I really stand a chance at getting this fellowship? Will I be able to fill the shoes of a Kenan Fellow? Do I deserve this opportunity?

But then again, I’ve always suffered from a little bit of imposter syndrome.

The noise in my head was loud, but I took a chance and applied anyway, seeking support from my professional network along the way. I found out in March that I was invited for an interview, which seemed like a step in the right direction. I was hopeful but wasn’t holding on to hope, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if it fell through.

Then, the pandemic hit. School shut down. My classroom was empty. I started working and teaching from home, and my life as a teacher was upended. Time flew as I made it through the weeks, grasping to Zoom calls and Google Classroom assignments and holding on to a semblance of normalcy in our new digital world.

In early May, I heard the news that I had been selected as a 2020-21 Kenan Fellow. When I got the congratulatory email I was excited and overwhelmed, and to be honest, it still doesn’t feel very real. It still hasn’t sunken in, and I’m still asking myself the same questions I’ve had since I started the application process.

But I am Emily Felker, a 2020-21 Kenan Fellow.

So, what DO I hope to gain from my fellowship experience, anyway?

On a professional level, I’m hoping that the connections I make at the industry and university level will bridge the divide between my classroom and the real world of science. I’m hoping that the words ‘Kenan Fellow’ behind my name will help my words, as a young teacher, hold more power. I’m hoping that I walk away from this experience as a more knowledgeable, more equitable, more impactful teacher in my classroom. 

On a personal level, I’m hoping that this experience will boost my confidence as an educator and help me to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in my own ability. I’m hoping that the imposter in me will quiet down and allow the inborn teacher in me to shine a little brighter and speak a little louder.

I am keeping my fingers crossed.