Polk County Middle School eighth grade social studies teacher Eric Eaton has received a prestigious Kenan Fellowship for the 2023-24 academic year.
Eaton and 38 other teachers from 25 counties in North Carolina were selected by the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C. State University for the award, which provides teachers with invaluable experiences in industry and research settings and supports them in translating their internship experiences into a wealth of instructional resources that are shared with their schools, districts and communities.
Eaton will participate in a four-week professional development program at North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and an internship with the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS). The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is the sponsor for Eaton’s work with SAWS.
The Kenan Fellowship is “a one of a kind professional learning opportunity that allows teachers to collaborate with other educators as well as university and industry leaders to develop innovative educational resources and programs that will advance public education in North Carolina,” said Vance Kite, Kenan Fellows director.
Eaton will be working with the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards and mentor Leandra Taylor to develop projects to engage diverse groups of students in wilderness stewardship and education about our public lands.
“I am truly excited about the opportunity to work with teachers, industry leaders, businesses and non-profits from across our state to bring meaningful and engaging learning to our students,” Eaton said. “I am particularly interested in getting our students outdoors to engage in meaningful, hands-on learning experiences.
“We have great potential in Polk County to be a leader in outdoor education and stewardship of our natural resources as a complement to our economy. It begins with educating all of our diverse student population and preparing them for future employment, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related fields.”
Kenan Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend and participate in 80 hours of professional development that focuses on project-based learning, elevating teachers’ voices and strengthening ties between the school and the local community as well as peer coaching and mentoring.
Eaton is the fifth Polk County Schools teacher selected as a Kenan Fellow in the past four years.
“I am thankful for this opportunity and the support of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, SAWS, and Polk County Schools,” Eaton said. “I hope to bring back resources and knowledge that will help engage and develop our students into the next generation of skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens for Polk County and North Carolina.”