When the opportunity came to attend the annual National Science Teachers Association National Conference on Science Education, Allie Smith, an eighth-grade science teacher at C.M. Eppes Middle School in Greenville, jumped at the chance. The opportunity arose through a new annual award for science teachers in eastern North Carolina — the John C. Park Scholarship — established by East Carolina University College of Education Taft Distinguished Professor of Science Education, Dr. Leonard Annetta.
The scholarship, launched in 2018 by Annetta and the ECU Center for STEM Education, is valued at up to $1,500 and provides a science teacher from eastern North Carolina in their first five years of teaching with funds to attend the annual NSTA National Conference on Science Education. Through the Taft Endowment in science education at ECU, one science teacher in grades K-5 and one science teacher in grades 6-12 will be awarded each year.
Smith received her bachelor of science in middle grades education and her master of arts in education for middle grades education from ECU, both with concentrations in math and science education.
“I am so grateful to ECU and the scholarship donors for this chance to attend this conference,” she said. “ECU has steadily provided me with unmatched opportunities while I earned my bachelors and masters degrees, and they continue to do so now in my second year of teaching.”
Annetta said the scholarship was named in honor of John C. Park, who spent 25 years as a professor of science education at North Carolina State University where he had an influence on several members of ECU’s science education faculty.
“A leader by example, John dedicated his life to his family, his church, and to education,” Annetta said. “He created innovative ways of instilling others with the curiosity and desire to learn and positively impact the world around them.”
After presenting Smith with the scholarship, Annetta shared a letter from Park’s wife, Lory Park, about what attending professional development conferences meant to her husband’s career.
“He was troubled by the cost and the low attendance of new teachers,” Lory Park said. “Although he had little control over the cost of a conference, he himself made an effort to get the attendance of teachers just starting their careers higher by providing funding through whatever means possible for these teachers.”
Excited to be the first recipient of the John C. Park Scholarship and for the chance to attend the NSTA conference, Smith said she hopes to bring her students more exposure to science education.
“My goal for going to the NSTA conference in Atlanta is to find affordable ways to bring authentic science experiences to my students,” Smith said. “As a teacher in a Title I school, I work with a majority of students who, for a plethora of reasons, are unable to engage with science in a meaningful way outside of my classroom.”
To qualify for the John C. Park scholarship, teachers must have taught less than five years as a full-time teacher at the time of the application within the Latham Clinical Schools Network, and be an NSTA member in good standing.
For more information about the award or to apply for the 2019 John C. Park Scholarship, contact Dr. Leonard Annetta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-328-6179.