Michelle Leber and Justine Ophanon, teacher credential candidates at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School, were named Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellows. The KSTF Teaching Fellowships, a five-year program, supports, sustains, and inspires exceptional young men and women committed to making a difference as science and mathematics teachers in U.S. high schools. The program provides financial support for tuition assistance, grants, and professional development; professional support in the form of meetings, mentoring, and resources; and a strong, like-minded community of outstanding professional teachers. Only 222 Knowles Fellowships have been awarded since 2002.
Both Leber and Ophanon are also Noyce Scholars in the Teacher Education Program at UC Santa Barbara; Leber is preparing to be a high school physics teacher, while Ophanon is preparing to teach biology.
The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation was established in 1999 by Janet H. and C. Harry Knowles to cultivate and support exemplary science and mathematics high school teachers and develop the next generation of leaders in education.
Michelle Leber developed an interest in physics in high school by reading science fiction, an interest she pursued at the University of Pittsburgh. With the encouragement of supportive professors, Michelle continued to graduate school, earning a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Washington. In 2009, Michelle moved to Santa Barbara to continue neutrino research at UCSB. Wanting to inspire more young people to pursue science, Michelle decided to switch her focus to teaching. Michelle is excited about the opportunities this fellowship will provide for her and her students.
Justine Ophanon graduated from UCSB in 2011 not sure of what to do but Sue Johnson’s undergraduate classes on science education hung in her mind. After spending a year back in her hometown of Monterey, California, working as a naturalist at Camp SEA Lab she realized kids were awesome – they were goofy and clever and they inspired her to become a teacher. Receiving the Knowles Fellowship was far-fetched in her mind but she is honored to be receiving it and feels blessed by the support that she has received from the education department, her advisers, and especially her science cohort.