Math and science experts chosen for teaching fellowship program

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship program alumni.

Fellowship program places experienced professionals in high-need urban and rural schools.

KALAMAZOO—The third class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellows, announced July 15, is bringing 13 new math and science professionals to Western Michigan University to be part of a program designed to provide Michigan's high-need urban and rural schools with teachers who offer both cutting-edge preparation and real-world expertise in math and science. 

The 13 fellows selected to attend WMU are among this year's 51 WKKF-WW Michigan Teaching Fellows. Each fellow will receive $30,000 to complete a specially designed, cutting-edge master's degree program based on a yearlong classroom experience. In return, fellows commit to teach for three years in Michigan's high-need urban and rural secondary schools.

The newly selected 2013 class is the third group of fellows named in Michigan since the program was launched by the Kellogg Foundation in 2009 with $18 million in support. The program is administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation of Princeton, N.J., which runs similar fellows programs in Indiana, New Jersey and Ohio.

The statewide program recruits recent college graduates or career-changers with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Among the new fellows attending WMU, for instance, are a professional ornithologist, two former Peace Corps members, a pharmaceutical industry professional and a wireless consultant. Each has already earned at least a bachelor's degree from schools around the nation. Four have earned master's degrees as well, and one fellow already has earned a doctoral degree.

The program ultimately will impact more than 100,000 Michigan high school students, providing them with the level of instruction they need to contribute and thrive in the state's rapidly changing economy and workforce. Numerous studies have demonstrated that students in high-need schools are significantly less likely to have access to such teachers, particularly in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math.

"The research is clear—the most important factor affecting the quality of a student's education is the quality of the classroom teacher. Beyond that, effective educators can make a powerful and lasting impact on students in ways that can't be measured by test scores and report cards," says Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation.

In addition to WMU, campuses working with the Fellows program include Eastern Michigan, Grand Valley State, Michigan State and Wayne State universities as well as the University of Michigan. These universities partner with local school districts where Fellows learn to teach in real classrooms from the beginning of their master's work, just as physicians learn in teaching hospitals. The 10 partner districts for these clinical placements, up from nine last year, include Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Comstock, Detroit, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Wyoming and Ypsilanti.  WMU is working with Battle Creek Public Schools, Benton Harbor Area Schools, Comstock Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools and Grand Rapids Public Schools.

"Michigan's economic future will be driven by the STEM fields," says Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. "Getting strong math and science teachers into Michigan's high-need schools means both creating opportunities for the young people who most need them and building the state's workforce. There's no greater need in Michigan education today, and we think these fellows will do a tremendous job in helping to meet that need. They are amazing people, and they will change tens of thousands of lives."

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation of Princeton, N.J., identifies and develops leaders and institutions to meet the nation's critical challenges, working through education.

WMU's 2013 WKKF-WW Fellows

Michael Buhler of Idaho Falls, Idaho
Utah State University, 2013, mathematics education
Tutor, mentor and substitute teacher at local high school, worked with students with learning disabilities; college math tutor, three years; Eagle Scout; Cub Scout Den Leader; official for high school and Little League baseball and football.
• Irene Burch-Travis of Detroit
Western Michigan University, 2013, biochemistry
Undergraduate teaching assistant; graduate of high-need schools; worked with youth ages 1-12; co-facilitator, First-Year Seminar, WMU.
Kelly DeRango of Kalamazoo
Indiana University, 1986, political science and Spanish
University of Michigan, 1992, M.B.A. finance
University of Wisconsin, 1995, M.S., economics
University of Wisconsin, 2000, Ph.D, economics
College-level instructor/administrator in economics, 15-plus years experience; tutor, Kalamazoo Public Schools, five-plus years experience; coach, Girls on the Run; former volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps in Honduras; avid runner and marathoner; food enthusiast.
Derek DenHartigh of Zeeland, Mich.
Grand Valley State University, 2013, biomedical engineering, cell and molecular biology
Dean's List student; youth ministry leader at local church; college-level tutor, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physiology, GVSU Student Academic Success Center.
Aaron Fillenworth of Lansing, Mich.
Aquinas College, 2008, mathematics
Volunteer, observer and participant in math classes in high-need school; peer and colleague mentor; document developer, responsible for training coworkers in complex projects and procedures; passionate and engaged sportsman.
Joshua Gates of Lansing, Mich.
Taylor University, 2010, psychology
Peace Corps mathematics teacher, Burkina Faso; intern, United States Mission to the United Nations; undergraduate math tutor; psychology research assistant.

Ashley Hill of Kalamazoo
Western Michigan University, 2009, biology and environmental studies
Western Illinois University, M.S., 2011, biology
Adjunct biology instructor, community college; graduate teaching assistant, biology; board member and interpretive assistant for nature programs at state fish hatchery; advocate for environmental education and public awareness regarding natural resources; volunteer high school women's bowling coach.
Lisa Litchfield of Lansing, Mich.  
Northern Michigan University, 2006, zoology
Michigan State University, 2009, M.S., zoology
Docent, program coordinator, and educator, local zoo, five-plus years; conservation advocate; graduate teaching assistant, biology; research assistant, West African crab taxonomy; member, Association of Zoos and Aquariums; certified Open Water Diver SCUBA; outdoor recreation enthusiast.
Samantha Quist of Kalamazoo  
Central Michigan University, 2012, meteorology
Math tutor; wireless consultant.
Kirstan Walker of Grand Rapids, Mich.
University of Michigan, 2011, aerospace engineering
Volunteer math and science teacher, Nicaraguan high-need school; LEGO robotics coach for middle school students; team leader for STEM summer camps for middle and high school students.
Elizabeth Weaver of Mattawan, Mich.  
North Carolina State University, 1992, chemistry
North Carolina State University, 1995, M.S., organic chemistry
Pharmaceutical industry professional with five-plus years' experience; volunteer, local nursing home; Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie co-leader; mentor, Kalamazoo Area Achievement Program; volunteer, Mattawan Early and Later Elementary Parent Association; avid gardener and baker.
Torrey Wenger of Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo College, 2012, biology
Ornithologist with 15-plus years experience in education at local nature center; specialist in environmental education and author of many articles on the subject; certified heritage interpreter; licensed bird bander; specialist in ornithology.
Erik West of Rockford, Mich.  
University of Michigan, 2011, business
Volunteer mathematics teacher in Honduras, grades eight through 12, and head basketball coach; camp counselor for multiple youth summer camps; youth football defensive coordinator, Chicago; assistant coach for sixth grade basketball team; head manager of the University of Michigan football team.