Elizabeth Mai Smith, a graduate student at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy, has been chosen to receive a five-year teaching fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation. Smith is an incoming student in the Master of Science in Education (MSEd) program.
Designed to develop beginning teachers into teacher leaders, Knowles Teaching Fellowships aim to improve the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by building a corps of exceptional educators. Smith, along with the other 34 members of the 2013 cohort, is committed to teaching STEM subjects to high school students in the United States. The selected fellows excelled as exceptional candidates during a rigorous screening process.
“Throughout this experience, I hope to gain the leadership skills necessary to assist fellow teachers in the schools where I work, and contribute to building a supportive environment in which teachers are reminded of the significance of their job,” says Smith of her fellowship.
Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics from DePaul University and went on to pursue a master’s in the same subject. After she completes the Master of Science in Education program at Northwestern University, she aspires to secure a teaching position in a high-needs school in the Chicagoland area.
Before settling in Illinois, Smith moved frequently as part of a military family, living in Florida and Japan. During her six years in Japan, her Japanese mother, who was troubled by the mathematics education she was receiving, began working with her on math on a daily basis. She says these lessons colored her perception of this challenging subject and increased her problem-solving skills.
Smith is the first in her family to attend college. In a math pedagogy class she took as an undergraduate, she learned about the achievement gap between students in the United States and in other countries. This fact spurred her to find out why U.S. students fall behind in math and how she could increase her knowledge of math education. Smith volunteered at the Metro Achievement Center, a nonprofit organization that serves Chicago’s youth, in both the after school and summer programs.
Throughout the course of the five-year fellowship, Smith and other Knowles Fellows are exposed to a variety of teaching resources, curriculum materials, research and subject matter experts. Regular participation in an online community and attendance at annual meetings also encourages the development of a community of teacher leaders.