Tom Jenkins, a STEM teacher for Greenon Local Schools and a Wright State University graduate, has been named an Albert Einstein Distinguished Fellow for the 2022–2023 school year.
Jenkins was just one of 15 K–12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers from across the United State to receive the fellowship.
He will be hosted by the Department of Defense and the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland.
Jenkins’ fellowship takes place from August 2022 through July 2023, after which he will return to Greenon Junior and Senior High School, where he teaches science and STEM.
Jenkins said the fellowship offers a unique opportunity to engage in long-term intensive professional development while also allowing him to serve his country.
Albert Einstein Distinguished Fellows work in federal agencies or in U.S. Congressional offices, applying their extensive knowledge and classroom experiences to national education programs or education policy efforts. The fellowship program is managed by the Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
Participating in a year of intensive professional development will help him become a stronger educator, improve his practice and create amazing authentic learning opportunities for his students.
“Not only will I be working alongside gifted teachers, but I will also have opportunities to interact with some of our nation’s best scientists and engineers,” he said.
During his fellowship, Jenkins will help move forward Department of Defense STEM educational initiatives at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. He will create STEM educational content, host teacher professional development and create student experiences.
“Not only will many of these be once in lifetime experiences, but I will be spending the year working alongside some of America’s top STEM educators,” he said. “I expect tremendous growth both as an educator as well as a person over the upcoming year.”
He said he is hopeful that participating in the fellowship will allow him to “increase the number of inspirational authentic learning opportunities on a national level for both students and teachers.”
Jenkins earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a science concentration in 1997 and a master’s degree in science teaching in 1999 from Wright State.
The education he received as a teacher education student helped him understand how to create and manage an effective classroom environment, while his undergraduate and graduate science education courses were rooted in inquiry-based authentic learning, which have helped him excel as a STEM educator, he said.
He praised the science and classroom lessons he learned from earth and environmental sciences faculty members Bill Slattery and Stacey Hundley and environmental science education faculty member Linda Ramey.
As a first-generation college student, Jenkins said, he would have never imagined he would one day be selected for a prestigious program like the Albert Einstein Distinguished Fellowship.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to live life in a community that is conducive to upward economic mobility through education,” he said.
The fellowship is just the latest honor Jenkins has received in his distinguished teaching career.
He was named the Ohio State Board of Education District 10 Teacher of the Year and a finalist for both the 2021 Ohio Teacher of the Year and the Ohio Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He received the 2020 Excellence in Teaching Award from the Springfield Rotary Club. He also served as an NOAA teacher at sea and as a SOFIA airborne astronomy ambassador at NASA.