Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

These 4 local teachers earned $3K each to support STEM students

Local educators Jessica Doiron, Kristina Hellmich, Gemma Bognot-Clarke and Sunday Iwalaiye each earned a grant from the Society for Science to mentor 3-5 local students in research and science competitions.

Educator Jessica Doiron (center) and her students.

(Courtesy photo)

Just in time for the first day of school: Four local teachers are getting a boost for their classroom budgets, courtesy of the DC-based nonprofit Society for Science.

The organization recently offered grants to 84 educators around the country for the 2022-2023 school year. Of those, 73 teachers will receive a $3,000 stipend while 11 others will get $5,000 and oversee a group of educators. In total, 34 educators are returning recipients to the program, which is in its eighth year.

The selected educators, known as “advocates” in the program’s parlance, will select a minimum of three-to-five students who are from low-income backgrounds or considered underrepresented in independent science research and competitions. The advocates will serve as mentors for the students, helping them with hands-on research and entry into science fairs, to encourage STEM pathways and careers. The advocates will be helping students with logistical needs such as selecting competitions and meeting deadlines. Last year, 75% of students participated in local or national competitions.

Locally, four DMV teachers were selected to receive $3,000 in support of STEM students:

  • Jessica Doiron, Freedom High School in Woodbridge, Virginia
  • Kristina Hellmich, Two Rivers Middle School Public Charter School in DC
  • Gemma Bognot-Clarke, Chesapeake Math and IT Public Charter in Laurel, Maryland
  • Sunday Iwalaiye, Prince George’s County Public Schools in Laurel, Maryland

“Aside from efficiently facilitating experiments, being able to assist students in communicating their scientific discoveries is likely the most critical talent to display as a STEM coordinator and adviser,” Bognot-Clarke said in a statement. “As an advocate, I know that I can nurture ingenuity and originality with STEM students, which will lead them to new ideas and breakthroughs for the world.”

“Being a science advocate will allow me to inspire my science students beyond learning the concepts and principles of science into doing science in real-life situations,” Iwalaiye added.

DMV tech students did pretty well in 2022. Earlier this year, two local students were selected to participate in the 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search (also hosted by the Society for Science). One of them took home $70,000 as a seventh-place national winner.

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Still, even with these fresh funds, DC and other local school districts are having trouble preparing for the influx of students headed to the hallways next week. So far, DC Public Schools (DCPS) and DC Health are struggling with the data on whether schools are fully prepared with working HVAC systems and cooling/heating contingency plans. DC Health is also currently reporting that 29% of enrolled students are non-compliant with vaccine requirements, including for measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio and COVID-19.

In addition, school are seemingly having issues finding teachers. Axios reported that DCPS needs to hire 150 teachers before the first day of school, while Montgomery County needs 187 (plus 450 staff jobs) and Prince George’s County has 900 teacher openings. Fairfax and Arlington are doing better, according to WTOP, with 99% of teaching spots filled.

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