Two Western N.C. Educators Named Meta Kenan Fellows

Courtney Najdek

FOREST CITY, N.C. – Two Western North Carolina educators have been named 2022-23 Kenan Fellows. Their fellowships were made possible through a partnership between Meta and the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at North Carolina State University. Founded in 2000, the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership addresses the critical need for high-quality professional development for educators; it is the largest STEM-focused teacher leadership program in North Carolina.

The Kenan Fellows Program connects outstanding educators with mentors in local industry and business settings, creating opportunities that build meaningful relationships. The 2022-23 Kenan Fellows cohort of 25 North Carolina educators will receive leadership training to drive innovations in STEM education and help students build career-ready skills.

The two 2022-23 Meta Western N.C. Fellows are:

  • Courtney Najdek, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Hendersonville Middle School in Henderson County Schools. She has been teaching for 11 years; this summer, she will intern at Asheville GreenWorks.
  • Jennifer Taylor is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher at Polk County Middle School in Polk County Schools. She has been teaching for 20 years and will intern at Biltmore Farms this summer.
Jennifer Taylor

Meta’s partnership with Kenan Fellows continues to grow as more Western N.C. teacher leaders join an already expanding network of more than 500 high-performing Kenan Fellows across the state. This is the third consecutive year that Meta has supported Kenan Fellows in the western part of North Carolina. Previous teacher participants have implemented innovative project-based learning activities and units with their students and have continued to build connections in their communities.

“The Kenan Fellows Program stands out for the significant opportunity it provides to invest in our community’s teachers,” said Tara Tenorio, Community Development Regional Manager for Meta. “Now in our third year of partnership, we’re honored to continue supporting educators in Western North Carolina through this meaningful platform and are excited to see the impact it has on STEM education in our region.”

Meta has been part of the Western North Carolina community since 2010, when the company broke ground on its data center in Forest City, N.C.

Kenan fellowships are awarded through a competitive application process. As part of the fellowship, the educators attend a series of professional learning institutes focused on project-based learning, digital learning and leadership development.

Teachers remain in the classroom while completing the yearlong fellowship. Educators 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, Kenan Fellows lead proactively within their schools and districts. Many become empowered to influence and lead educational innovation at state and national levels.

“Because of industry supporters like Meta, we are able to provide teachers with the skills needed to build industry-education partnerships that make stronger connections between desirable workforce skills and classroom content,” said Elaine Franklin, Director of the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership.