by Geoff Larcom, Published May 12, 2011
He is a former dolphin trainer and sailing instructor who's worked as a mechanical engineer for 15 years. Now Chris Hiltz plans to teach in Michigan's most needy schools and prepare students for work in the new economy.
Hiltz, of Ann Arbor, is among 13 fellows who will attend Eastern Michigan University as part of the inaugural Michigan class of the highly competitive W.K. Kellogg-Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship.
In an all, 92 fellows will attend EMU, Wayne State University, Grand Valley State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Western Michigan University, the six Michigan institutions selected for participation in the program. The fellows were announced today during a special ceremony in Governor Rick Snyder's office.
Recruiting both recent college graduates and those seeking a different career, the three-year fellowship is awarded to promising educators with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Fellows receive $30,000 to pursue a customized master's degree program that prepares them to teach in high-need urban or rural secondary schools in seven local districts across the state.
Upon graduating, these fellows will not only be equipped to help the students they teach, but will represent a cadre of high-quality instructors whose knowledge and practices will positively affect their colleagues and make a real difference in the lives of students across the state.
By preparing and placing top-quality math and science educators in many of Michigan's most underserved public schools, the fellowship program will ultimately provide nearly 101,000 students with the high-quality level of instruction they need to contribute to Michigan's renewal and rapidly changing economy and workforce.
"We need great teachers and great teaching to support our development of the highest quality education in Michigan," Snyder said. "The teachers in this fellowship program will bring their much-needed expertise in key disciplines to some of our schools in which the need is greatest. We want our students to have every opportunity for success in this global economy. Greater exposure to these key subjects will provide that foundation."
Hiltz, who earned his bachelors in 1995 and then his engineering graduate degree in 2003 from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, typifies the broad life experience of the fellows. He has served as a Science Olympiad coach and a volunteer tutor for students and adults, including high-need and special education.
Nelson Maylone, a professor of educational psychology, is serving as director of the fellowship program at Eastern. For more than a year, Maylone has overseen efforts at EMU as the University prepared to receive the fellows.
The group recently completed orientation on campus, and has begun course work.
Maylone said he thinks of all his education students at Eastern as future master teachers, but noted the distinctive backgrounds and character of this first group of fellows.
"They are the most diverse, interesting, intelligent and insightful pre-service teachers I have ever encountered," Maylone said. "Most importantly, they share a profound commitment to urban youth. They will be ready next year to make a significant impact in Detroit."
The Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched the statewide program in 2009 with $18 million in support, reflecting its dedication to innovative education practices and recognition that improving teacher quality is the key to raising the level of learning for all students. A similar program exists in Indiana.
Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation, joined Snyder and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in announcing the inaugural class of Michigan fellows, who were selected from a highly competitive pool of 1,500 applicants hailing from a variety of experiences and former careers in math and science-related fields.
"It is critically important to create conditions that prepare children for long-term success and independence, and in this case that means surrounding them with top-notch math and science instructors," said Speirn. "Bringing high-quality teachers to our home state's most vulnerable children and school districts honors the Foundation's commitment to Michigan communities and to systemic education transformation statewide."
"These Fellows are amazing – engineers and zookeepers and medical researchers and astrophysicists, some in midcareer, others just graduating at the top of their classes," said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. "They all bring real science and math expertise to the kids who most need strong teachers."
In addition to Hiltz, EMU's 13 fellows also include:
• Michael Adamisin (Northville)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: University of Michigan '04, mechanical engineering.
Graduate college and degree: Michigan State University '07, law (J.D.)
Backround: Private math and science tutor; co-designer of ACT prep course; as undergraduate, co-teacher of class section; tutor and mentor to student from high-need background.
• Cary Brainard (London, UK/Detroit)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Purdue University '00, mechanical engineering.
Background: Coordinator and engineer for major automotive manufacturer in Europe and North America with more than a decade's experience; speaker of French and Japanese; graduate of high-need schools.
• Rhea Broughton (Detroit)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Bowling Green State University '10, psychology, minor in mathematics.
Background: Eighth-grade summer school math teacher; math tutor for Wayne State's Math Corps program; instructional assistant and graduate instructor at Wayne State University; active supporter of the TOMS and Invisible Children organizations.
• Amanda Burgess (East Moline, IL)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Augustana College '07, biology, minor in biochemistry.
Background: Quality control laboratory technician with extensive analytical and medical laboratory skills; Beta Beta Beta biology honor society; Rock Island County Humane Society volunteer; volunteer exhibit construction contributor at Putnam Children's Museum.
• Marissa Fountain-Nelson (Kalamazoo)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Boston University '09, athletic training.
Graduate college, class, and major: University of Nevada, Las Vegas '11 (expected), kinesiology (M.S.).
Background: Athletic trainer/mentor, two public high schools; trainer at physical therapy facility; teaching/laboratory assistant and guest lecturer, kinesiology, UNLV; assistant in Boston University sports medicine department.
• Nektarios Georgiadis (Milan)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Eastern Michigan University '95, actuarial science and economics.
Background: Math tutor; substitute teacher in secondary education; business owner and corporate manager with 14 years in finance, marketing and sales, as well as team building, and employee training.
• Melissa Karjala (Ann Arbor)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: University of Michigan '01, biological psychology.
Graduate college, class, and major: U-M '04, public health (MPH).
Background: Medical research finance administrator; former captain and All-American, Michigan Women's Water Polo Team; high school water polo/swimming coach; volunteer, therapeutic horseback riding; will swim English Channel in 2012.
• James Lyden (Dearborn)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: University of Michigan '74, physical oceanography.
Graduate college and degree: University of Michigan '83, physical oceanography (M.S.).
Background: Research engineer with 28 years of experience working with defense and intelligence agencies; Habitat for Humanity volunteer; author of seven published journal articles and numerous conference papers and technical reports.
• Erika McBurrows (Detroit)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Wayne State University '98, civil engineering.
Background: Transportation engineer with the Michigan DOT since 2005; six years of project engineering experience; secretary of the Detroit Chapter National Society of Black Engineers-Detroit Alumni Extension.
• Quinton Myers (Southfield)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Lawrence Technological University '04, computer engineering and electrical engineering.
Background: Electrical and application engineer for four years; analyst intern with top automotive company; volunteer with the Saving Our Sons mentoring center; mentor/speaker with Detroit Public Schools; founding partner of a children's enrichment & leadership program.
• Carrie Russell (Livonia)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Michigan Technological University '96, chemical engineering.
Graduate college, class, and major: Wayne State University '04, M.B.A.
Background: Engineer, quality specialist, buyer for global automotive company for 10-plus years; magna cum laude graduate from Michigan Tech, summa cum laude graduate from Wayne State; Sunday school teacher (1st & 2nd grade).
• John Russell (Baltimore, MD)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Wheaton (IL) College '11 (expected), political science and environmental studies (double degree).
Background: Board member and vice president for an international conservation organization; former lab technician in commercial R&D; behavioral therapist/personal support worker for special needs children; intern with Cosley Zoo.
• Julia Sluchak-Carlsen (Livonia)
Undergraduate college, class, and major: Wayne State University '85, biology, minor in health.
Graduate college, class, and major: Wayne State University '05, urban studies (M.A.)
Background: Project manager at national cancer center, overseeing clinical trials and supervising college and medical students; former research assistant, oncology, infectious diseases; mentor, high school students; volunteer/teacher's assistant, elementary level.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, southern Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
About the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation www.woodrow.org identifies and develops leaders and institutions to address critical national challenges, working through education. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American institutions. It also supports innovation in the institutions they will lead.
For more on EMU's fellowship program, see http://www.emich.edu/wilsonfellowship/