Don Elswick always knew he wanted to be an educator. His grandfather inspired him to prize and value education. “My grandfather was never able to attend school past first grade in rural West Virginia. His wisdom that ‘education is the only thing that cannot be taken away’ was my motivator,” said Elswick.
Currently the STEM Coordinator at St. Wendelin High School in Fostoria, Ohio, Elswick advises the integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education across grade levels K-12.
Now pursuing his Master of Arts in Education (MAE) from the University of Findlay, he’s found additional motivation from faculty and staff in his program. Gwynne Rife, Ph.D., and Julie McIntosh, Ed.D, have both invited him to science workshops, educational seminars and personal mentoring and development.
“I chose University of Findlay because of the faculty and staff. They are motivated and willing to work with nontraditional students and use experiences to enhance education,” he said.
Dr. Rife even introduced Elswick to the Ohio STEM Learning Network’s Innovative Leaders Institute. “She was the primary reason I applied. I didn’t realize how beneficial the program would be for St. Wendelin and improving STEM education. UF education faculty members mentor students like me throughout their career, and the institute is another area they helped prepare me for,” said Elswick.
The Innovative Leaders Institute is a year-long training and mentoring experience for educators led by some of the top STEM and innovative school leaders across the country. Educators like Elswick have the opportunity to network with like-minded STEM teaching professionals to discuss innovative learning techniques and increase opportunities for activities and funding sources.
According to Elswick, he is among just 35 educators who were selected from more than 100 applicants to attend the institute this year. He hopes to take what he learns over the course of this next year to become part of the solution to STEM education in the 21st century. “The demand for professionals in STEM fields is projected to outpace the supply of trained workers and professionals. A recent report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) estimates there will be one million fewer STEM graduates over the next decade that U.S. industries will need,” Elswick said.