My Year as an Einstein FellowDecember 18, 2019
By Amara Alexander (AL ’16)
Through a prestigious fellowship for STEM educators, Amara Alexander (AL ’16) is spending the 2019-20 school year at the Library of Congress.
For the 2019-20 school year, I stepped away from my position as a K-5 STEM teacher at Woodmore Elementary in Chattanooga, Tennessee to enter a new classroom at the Library of Congress as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. The Einstein Fellowship gives K-12 STEM educators the opportunity to work for 11 months in a U.S. Congressional office or government agency, bringing their experience to bear on federal STEM education efforts. Cherlyn Anderson, a 1997 South Carolina Milken Educator, was an Einstein Fellow in 2007-08, and she looked over my application before I submitted it.
As I began this new educational journey, I felt both excited and timid. For the next 11 months my home would be our nation’s capital, and I would embark on this unique opportunity to see a different side of education.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library with photographs, maps, recordings, manuscripts and more in its collections. The Library serves as the main research hub for the U.S. Congress and is home to the U.S. Copyright Office. Guests from across the world visit the Library to research its vast collections and observe its beautiful architure.
Excited to receive a Library Reader’s card, I toured individual research rooms and explored their collections. I have seen Amelia Earheart’s handprint, touched 400-year-old books, read Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches, viewed Albert Einstein’s papers and examined maps of my hometown. I have written blogs highlighting the Library’s digitized resources for educators to implement into their STEM instruction.
I have met politicians from Alabama, Illinois and Tennessee, including Tennessee U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (pictured above). Congressman Fleischmann and I discussed the needs of Woodmore Elementary and the importance of STEM education. Attending congressional hearings and briefings has given me a deeper understanding of how educational policy is passed on Capitol Hill.
Finding classrooms to demonstrate lessons I created using Primary Sources has been a treasure. I expanded my depth of knowledge about the Tuskegee Airmen and was eager for students to learn about their historic moments in history. During the lesson at Capitol Hill Day School in the pictures above, students learned about the 4 C’s (critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration) and studied images to identify how the Tuskegee Airmen used these strategies. Teaching with primary sources has strengthened my instructional practice and engages students’ learning process in a different way.
I love Washington. It’s only been four months, but it feels like home. My weekends are filled with museums and tours of the city. You can often find me venturing out to a new part of the District or cheering for the baseball team at Nationals Park. My Milken Educator Award and fellow Milken Educators inspired me to be 10% bolder as I leap into a new opportunity to elevate the voice of teachers.
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