McNeil teacher wins fellowship

  • By McKibben Jackinsky
  • Wednesday, April 10, 2013 2:25pm
  • News
Sheryl Sotelo

Sheryl Sotelo

During Sheryl Sotelo’s three decades in education, 18 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, nine of them at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, she has earned an impressive, long list of awards and honors. Among them are the 2002 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching and a $10,000 Toyota Tapestry Grant awarded at the 2008 National Science Teachers Association National Conference on Science Education.

Her passion for teaching and science also has created opportunities for the students in her sixth-grade classroom. You’ll find them on local beaches, taking water samples from nearby streams, visiting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Kasitsna Bay Research Lab and learning to maneuver their submersible robots under the surface of the pool at Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center.   

It’s just those kinds of achievements and activities that have earned Sotelo her latest award: the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship.

Sotelo is among 27 science, technology, engineering and mathematics educators chosen for the program. Beginning Sept. 1, the fellows will spend 11 months in the Washington, D.C., area working with sponsoring agencies that include the Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and NOAA. The fellows’ classroom experience will be used to guide education programs and policies, especially those related to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

Under the guidance of Marilyn Suiter, NSF’s program director for special activities, Sotelo will serve at NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Human Resources Development Division in Arlington, Va., the “NSF branch that deals with women in science, minorities in science and how to reach those students,” said Sotelo. 

“It should be a great experience for her,” said McNeil Principal Pete Swanson who wrote a letter of recommendation for Sotelo. “This is tremendous. A good thing for everybody.”

Amy Budge, a special services teacher at McNeil, also wrote a letter of recommendation for Sotelo. 

“She carries out her obligations with vigor and resolve whether it is setting up for Robotics, organizing the ‘Adopt a Stream,’ raising salmon fry in our hall aquarium, having the students demonstrate how they put together a bear skeleton, sponsoring after-school skiing, planning science field trips or playground duty,” said Budge. “She puts in many hours beyond the school day in preparation. She continues to keep herself current and energetic about her profession by attending national conferences and exploring new areas of interest.”

In summary, Budge said, “I would recommend her without reservation as a positive role model and professional for other teachers, colleagues, parents and students. She would be a great representative in D.C.”

During the fellowship, Sotelo also will be given an opportunity to work on her own professional development.

“They said that you need to think about what you want to do with this year, what conferences do you want to attend,” she said. “We’re free to take off for a few hours to go to Capitol Hill to listen to some discussion, or, if there’s a
lunch speaker at NSF, take off and listen. If another Einstein fellow is working on a project, (the program) loves collaboration.”

Some fellows move their families to Washington for the 11-month stay. Others are close enough to fly home on weekends and holidays. Sotelo and her husband, Ed,
who works for the Alaska Statewide Mentor Project
coaching early-career teachers, are considering the “distance plan.”

“He’s doing this really amazing job and I don’t want him to give that up,” said Sotelo. “He couldn’t be happier for me and he doesn’t want me to not have a chance at this. Eleven months will go by super fast and in the meantime, we’ll just travel back and forth.”

While in D.C. to be interviewed for the fellowship, Sotelo was given a tour of the area in which she will be working and living. Apartments are frequently passed from an outgoing fellow to an incoming one, making it possible to find a housing arrangement that includes furniture and dishes.

While excited about the opportunity, Sotelo confessed “a little bit of mixed feelings because there’s kids in sixth grade next year, some are my neighbors, and I hate to miss them.” 

Swanson said the goal is for Sotelo to return to McNeil after completing the fellowship.

“This is what I’ve dedicated my life to. I love it, the learning, the teaching and the students,” said Sotelo. “I’ve been a teacher now almost 30 years and so to take those experiences and share with others is kind of part of the profession. … It’s interesting that people think that perspective is valuable. It’s really validating.”

For more information about the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program, visit science.energy.gov/wdts/einstein/.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.
jackinsky@homernews.com.

More in News

Teaser
Then Now: Looking back on pandemic response

Comparing messaging from 1918 to 2021

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State Parks to hold meeting on Eastland Cottonwood unit

Meeting will include update on Tutka Bay Hatchery bill

Rachel and Vernon Scott Miller celebrate the birth of their son Tripp Woodruff Miller, who was born on Sept. 19, 2021. Tripp Miller is the first baby born from IVF treatments in Homer. (Photo provided by Miller family)
‘Just keep going’

Miller family celebrates birth of son by IVF

(Black Press stock photo)
Homer man dies of COVID-19

Homer man’s death announced as part of reporting backlog.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
A Juneau resident receives a flu shot while getting a booster shot for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Centennial Hall on Oct. 2, 2021. More than 1,300 Juneau residents received booster shots at the clinic, and about half of those people also received a flu shot.
Experts urge flu shots ASAP

Jabs keep infections down and free up health care resources

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
The Alaska Capitol is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. There is interest among lawmakers and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in settling a dispute over the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend program, but no consensus on what the program should look like going forward.
Alaskans get annual boost of free money from PFD

Checks of $1,114 are expected to be paid to about 643,000 Alaskans, beginning this week.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
This 2011 photo shows the Taku and Malaspina ferries at the Auke Bay Terminal.
Costs add up as ferry idled nearly 2 years

Associated Press The cost to the state for docking an Alaska ferry… Continue reading

The Federal Aviation Administration released an initiative to improve flight safety in Alaska for all aviation on Oct. 14, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
FAA releases Alaska aviation safety initiatives

The recommendations, covering five areas, range from improvements in hardware to data-gathering.

Most Read