News from West Kentucky Community & Technical College
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Local middle teacher officially awarded national June Scobee Rodgers award at WKCTC's Challenger Learning Center
On November 3, Brandy Roberts, a sixth-grade science teacher at Heath Middle School, again brought her students to the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah (CLC) for a mission to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But the day was another special time for Roberts, who was officially recognized as the 2023 June Scobee Rodgers Innovative Educator Award recipient during a brief ceremony at the center.
The award recognizes an outstanding educator who understands the importance of STEM education and demonstrates enthusiasm and passion in teaching STEM subjects. Roberts was chosen through an extensive nomination process to receive the prestigious award from teacher nominees from Challenger Centers across the nation. She learned she had won during a FaceTime call earlier this year with CLC Director Mellisa Duncan, who nominated her for the award, and the award namesake, June Scobee Rodgers, who shared the big news with her.
"I am so honored to have received the June Scobee Rodgers Innovative Educator Award. I was just thrilled beyond belief. It is such an honor," said Roberts, who began teaching at McCracken County Public Schools in 1998. "I was overwhelmed. My first thought was, 'I can't believe out of all the people across the United States who applied for this, that they selected me.' I was so thankful."
Traveling from her home in Chattanooga, Tenn., June Scobee Rodgers - a retired educator herself - made a special visit to the CLC to present the award to Roberts. She also presented Roberts with a copy of her book, Silver Linings: My Life Before and After Challenger 7, and included a special inscription to Roberts.
"Congratulations! Thank you for your leadership in STEM and your devotion to the Challenger Learning Center," Scobee-Rodgers wrote.
The founding chair of the Challenger Center, Scobee-Rodgers is the widow of the commander Richard "Dick" Scobee of the fated flight of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986. Now 81 years old, she has spent much of her life continuing the Challenger 7's educational mission through the 35 Challenger Centers and striving to spark student interest in STEM.
During the ceremony, Scobee-Rodgers also shared with the group of 25 sixth graders from one of Roberts' classes and the ceremony guests about her early teaching days when she had "always wanted more money to create something new for my students," and how Roberts would now receive a check to "create something innovative for her students."
Roberts received $2,500 to enhance her classroom lessons and/or support professional development opportunities. She already has plans for the award money.
A part of the nomination process, Roberts wrote that STEM teaching is very expensive....and a portion of the budget would be allocated to the replacement of consumables. "Additionally, I have been eyeing a Smithsonian STC science kit on Space Systems Exploration that I would love to purchase, but it is out of our budget range. This award could help make this STEM kit a reality for our classrooms."
Duncan said educators nominated for the June Scobee Rodgers Innovative Educator Award are committed to inspiring students to dream big and reach for the stars. "I have seen Mrs. Roberts interact with her students outside the center, in her own classroom, or at other events. I am a former educator, and seeing her in action in the classroom and during missions, I know she is truly one of the best."
Roberts' husband, Eric, who attended the ceremony, said, "I couldn't be prouder of her. I admire her commitment to teaching and science. It's evident in everything she does."
Two staff members from the Challenger Center Headquarters in Washington D.C., also attended the recognition ceremony. "We really wanted to be able to celebrate all of the accomplishments that Brandy has experienced as this innovative teacher...and it's been fabulous to be here to watch her be a wonderful teacher in action as well," said Michela Taylor, senior manager of network engagement.
Roberts said STEM education is the foundation for all learning as science is the study of our natural world. "It is a mission of my classroom to expose students to as many opportunities both virtually and in person as possible," she said in the nomination form. "Through our partnership with Challenger Learning Center Paducah, students are able go to the Moon. What better field trip experience is there than that?"
The Challenger Learning Center is located on the campus of West Kentucky Community and Technical College. The center is operated by Paducah Junior College, Inc., the charitable foundation for the college. For more information about the CLC, visit clcpaducah.org.
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