Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellows will prepare for STEM Careers in Underserved Schools

Jarred Phillips, a Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellow at Rutgers–Camden, speaks during New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement of the highly competitive program.

Rutgers University–Camden is poised to become a launching pad for top-flight educators in many of New Jersey’s most underserved public schools, thanks to its participation in the cutting-edge Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellowship.

Rutgers–Camden is one of five state higher-education institutions participating in the highly competitive program, announced on Tuesday by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the state house in Trenton. The initiative recruits both recent graduates and career changers with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math – the STEM fields – and prepares them specifically to teach in high-need secondary schools.

“With today’s announcement, we are reaffirming our commitment to investing in teacher talent with a new pipeline for recruiting highly qualified teaching candidates and training them so they can generate the greatest positive learning outcomes for our children,” said Christie. “By preparing these Fellows to be top-quality educators, we will be helping more than 15,000 students to contribute and thrive in a knowledge-based, global, digital economy, and workforce.”

Each Fellow receives $30,000 to complete a specially designed master’s degree program based on a year-long classroom experience. In return, Fellows commit to teach for three years in the urban and rural New Jersey schools that most need strong STEM teachers. Throughout the three-year commitment, Fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring.

Rutgers–Camden will train seven of the first 50 Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellows. Members of its first cohort are as follows:

Darlene Fleming (Delran)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Salve Regina University ‘87, biology

Small business owner, interior landscape company, with extensive knowledge of plants and their diseases and treatments; chief financial officer and credit manager; volunteer field hockey coach; graduate of high-need schools.

Jen Lee (Hammonton)
Undergraduate college, class, and major:
Rutgers University–New Brunswick ‘96, chemistry

Adjunct community college chemistry faculty; chemist and technical writer in the food and pharmaceutical industries for more than 18 years; IT technical support engineer, with additional credentials in programming and coding; database designer; web and graphic designer; peer trainer; animal shelter volunteer; youth theater leader.

Seung-Yub Lee (Cherry Hill)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: KyungPook National University (Daegu, South Korea) ’91, chemistry
Graduate college, class, and major: KyungPook National University ’94, M.S., organic chemistry; Stony Brook University ‘00, Ph.D., organic chemistry

Senior scientist in research institutes and biotechnology companies; author on 19 published articles and holder of three patents with expertise in chemistry, biochemistry, and biology; mentor for high school summer interns at chemical biology research institute.

A-Nam Nguyen (New Brunswick)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Rutgers University–New Brunswick ‘14, cell biology and neuroscience

Undergraduate researcher, melanoma; intern, health care project on wellness, race, and ethnicity; mentor for women students; emergency room volunteer; women’s studies minor; award-winning filmmaker and leader on eliminating homelessness; youth volunteer; member, Phi Beta Kappa; Dean’s List student, with graduation honors; fluent in Vietnamese, with conversational Spanish.

Jarred Phillips (Eastampton)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Yale University ‘14, molecular, cellular, and developmental biology

Undergraduate researcher, plant lab; science enrichment instructor in afterschool program for noted national museum; summer school physics teacher at Newark charter school; community health educator in urban schools; assistant director and tutor for academic enrichment program for disadvantaged youth.

Timothy Pilla (West Deptford)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Rowan University ‘11, biology

Camp instructor for large groups of children through a nature-based adventure firm; ocean enthusiast; expert scuba diver and scuba intern in Bali; advocate for ecological awareness and conservation; musician; photographer and videographer; skateboarder; cyclist.

Kelly Troendle (Pitman)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Rutgers University–Camden ‘12, biology

Teacher’s assistant in middle-school science classrooms, working one-on-one to create lessons and provide enrichment.

Pictured with Phillips are Jen Lee, a Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellow at Rutgers–Camden, and Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Students in high-need schools are significantly less likely to have access to strong STEM teachers, explains Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

“Study after study has shown that the single most important in-school factor in student achievement is access to excellent classroom teachers,” says Levine. “These Fellows are bringing real science and math expertise to the kids who most need them. They’re going to change tens of thousands of lives.”

In addition to Rutgers–Camden, Fellows will attend The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Montclair State University, Rowan University, and William Paterson University. The five institutions have agreed to make significant changes in their teacher preparation programs for these Fellows. These universities partner with local school districts, where Fellows learn to teach in real classrooms from the beginning of their master’s work, just as physicians learn in teaching hospitals.

The partner districts for Fellows’ clinical placements include Camden, Ewing Township, Newark, New Brunswick, Orange, Passaic City, Paterson, Pemberton Township, Trenton, and the rural Southern New Jersey districts of Millville, Bridgeton, and Vineland.

“Ultimately, we aim not only to prepare excellent teachers for a long-term career, but also to change the way all New Jersey teachers are prepared for real classroom challenges,” Levine said.

The program is supported to date by a consortium of New Jersey funders, headed by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Other funders include M. Brian and Sandy Maher; the Overdeck Family Foundation; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Jennifer Chalsty; the Drug, Chemical, and Associated Technologies Association (DCAT); the Educational Testing Service; the Fournier Family Foundation, Inc.; the JP Morgan Chase Foundation; Judy Lewent; Al Merck; the PSEG Foundation; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Schumann Fund for New Jersey; the William E. Simon Foundation; the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation; the Victoria Foundation; Helmut Weymar; and the Wright Foundation.

Initial funding of $11.4 million has enabled the participating colleges and universities to reshape their preparation programs and enroll their first classes of Fellows – 12 Fellows each at TCNJ, Montclair, and William Paterson, and seven each at Rowan and Rutgers–Camden. Given the state’s shortage of secondary-level STEM teachers, the Foundation is looking for additional partners and funders to expand the program to an eventual $13.6 million target – a level at which the program can produce enough Fellows to fill nearly all anticipated STEM vacancies in the participating districts.

New Jersey is one of five states now participating in the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships, which named its first Fellows in 2009 in Indiana. Other states hosting the program include Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia. Additional partner states will soon be announced, Levine said.

For breaking news from Rutgers–Camden – including access to Rutgers experts who can provide critical perspective to emerging and ongoing stories – follow us @RutgersCamNews on Twitter.          

Tom McLaughlin
(856) 225-6545

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