Only one word came to Susan Gendreau’s mind when she heard she had received a fellowship from the New Science and Teacher Academy.
“Wow,” she said.
Indeed, given the numbers, it is quite an accomplishment for Gendreau, a La Crescenta resident who teaches chemistry at Environmental Science and Technology school in Los Angeles.
Gendreau was one of about 600 people who applied last summer. In California, 39 teachers were chosen and 215 were selected nationwide.
“It was a long shot, I really didn’t expect to,” she said. “I know there were many applicants for these things. I feel extremely fortunate.”
The academy was created in 2007, aimed specifically at second and third-year science teachers in middle and high school and gives them professional development and support, according to program director Damaries Blondonville.
“Some of the most difficult years of their profession are usually the first couple of years,” said Blondonville.
Gendreau will receive the fellowship sponsored by DOW. Blondonville said the amount of fellowships given annually depends on the funding, and DOW is one of the greatest contributors to the academy.
This is Gendreau’s first year teaching at ESAT after spending time at Crescenta Valley High. She is the only chemistry teacher at her school, and the fellowship has given her a chance to be a part of an online community of experienced teachers. She talks with mentors who suggest new things via web seminars to try in her classroom, and they can track how well they work.
Funding is also provided for her to attend the academy’s national convention in Indianapolis in March. She’s already enrolled in a program at the convention to learn how to improve.
“It’s making me a more effective teacher,” she said.
Blondonville said the academy seriously looked at applicants who “really showed a commitment to teaching – those who had a focus on their own professional development and growth as an instructor.”
Blondonville noted the effort it takes to be a part of the NSTA.
“[Susan] is giving up a lot of her own personal time because not only is she doing the things that we require, she still has to go on be the teacher in a classroom.”
ESAT is a college preparatory school and Gendreau estimates 96% of the student body is Latino. Students come in from Lincoln Heights and Watts.
Schools like these provide the only opportunity for them to go to college, said Gendreau.
“They know if they graduate they will be able to get into a four-year college,” she said. “Our school is their shot. We take that very seriously.”
That is why Gendreau decided to apply for the fellowship, to be better for the kids.
“The fellowship has been very helpful. I’m learning things and the emotional support it provides is very good, too,” she said.