Two McDowell County educators named Meta Kenan Fellows

FOREST CITY, N.C. –The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C. State University is proud to announce that two outstanding educators from McDowell County Schools have been named as 2023-24 Meta Kenan Fellows.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that Meta has supported Kenan Fellows, and the partnership continues to grow as more Western North Carolina teacher leaders join the expanding network of nearly 600 high-performing Kenan Fellows across the state. Meta has been supporting two Kenan Fellows per year since 2020-21.

 “Investing in STEM education is an important priority for Meta. We are grateful for the opportunity to support these educators through the Kenan Fellows Program and look forward to seeing local students benefit from their experience in the years to come,” said Tara Tenorio, Community Development Regional Manager, Meta.

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.The Kenan Fellows Program provides exceptional educators with the opportunity to work with mentors in local industry and business settings, fostering meaningful relationships and creating innovative learning resources for students and local industries. The two teachers from McDowell County Schools will be part of the 2023-24 Kenan Fellows cohort of 38 educators statewide, receiving leadership training to drive advancements in STEM education and help students develop career-ready skills.

The Meta Western NC Fellows for 2023-24 are Rachel Pedler and Jennifer Wilson. Pedler is a science teacher at McDowell High School with nine years of teaching experience. She serves as a Wakelet Community Leader and is part of the education committee of the Lake James Environmental Association. Wilson is an eighth-grade math teacher at West McDowell Middle with 25 years of teaching experience and National Board Certification. From 1998 to 2000, she served as the department chair and lead teacher for the Ninth Grade Academy and was a teacher mentor from 1998 and 2022.

Wilson said as an educator it is important for her to understand how best to prepare her students for the future. “I want to expand my lessons into authentic environments so I can help my students prepare for a competitive world,” she said. “The Kenan Fellows Program is an excellent opportunity for me to connect my craft to my community in a way that supports my students best.”

Pedler said she hopes to gain insights into how she can help build stronger ties between her school and the surrounding community. “I feel that the Kenan Fellows Program will empower me to develop the confidence I need to build strong community relationships that will ultimately help students become better stewards of the area in which they live,” she said.

Kenan fellowships are awarded through a competitive application process, and as part of the fellowship, the educators will attend a series of professional learning institutes focused on project-based learning and leadership development. Teachers remain in their school roles while completing the yearlong fellowship, allowing them to apply their learning in real-time. Educators who have completed the program report feeling a deeper connection to their community and professional growth as part of a statewide network of teacher leaders.

“Thanks to industry supporters like Meta, we are able to provide teachers with the skills necessary to foster strong industry-education partnerships that connect desirable workforce skills with classroom content,” said Vance Kite, director of the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership.


About the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership

The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership (KFP) is a K-12 education initiative of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science at N.C. State University. The program aims to enhance the teaching profession by providing educators from all disciplines with immersive experiences in STEM industries and research settings, fostering innovation and excellence in education across North Carolina. To learn more, visit