Teacher returns to Neuqua Valley after year as Einstein fellow
By Jane Donahue For the Sun November 10, 2011 6:58PM
Neuqua Valley High School teacher Mike Kennedy said he returned from his year-long stint as an Albert Einstein Fellow feeling invigorated and with a new perspective. Jane Donahue/For Sun-Times Media/Naperville Sun 20111024 Monday,Naperville
On the web
To learn more about The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program, visit www.trianglecoalition.org/einstein-fellows/einstein-fellow-application-process
Did you know?
The following are requirements and key dates for the 2012-2013 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program:
Each applicant must:
Be a U.S. citizen at the time of application (no later than Jan. 5)
Have a minimum of five years full-time classroom teaching experience before completing the application
Have been teaching full time in a public or private elementary or secondary school for at least five of the last seven years in a STEM discipline (science, technology, engineering or math)
Be employed as a full-time teacher in a public or private elementary or secondary school or school district.
Provide three recommendations, one of which is from a school or district official
Source: Triangle Coalition
Updated: December 14, 2011 8:07AM
After a yearlong term as a member of The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program, Mike Kennedy has returned to Neuqua Valley High School.
“I’m not going to lie — it was awesome,” said Kennedy, physics teacher and boys’ track and field head coach. “But it feels good to be back, working in the classroom and coaching again. I really missed that. It was hard not to be here.”
Along with 31 other teachers from around the country, Kennedy spent the 2010-2011 school year in Washington, D.C., as an Albert Einstein Fellow. The program, signed into law in November 1994, offers educators the opportunity to serve in the national public policy arena.
Selected teachers spend a school year in a congressional office, a federal agency such as NASA, or the Department of Energy.
“I worked in the Department of Energy, and it was a perfect fit for me,” Kennedy said. “It would be really hard to pick the highlights of the year, but one of the best things was being able to work with the other fellows. They are absolutely phenomenal people who are really trying to make sure that education is pushed forward.”
Kennedy said he has returned to Naperville “invigorated” and with a fresh perspective.
“It absolutely made me a better teacher,” he said. “I have a bunch of ideas I came back with, and it helped me put things into perspective. What is really important when you are teaching? And what does a student really need to know when they leave here?”
Along with gaining a network of educators from around the U.S., Kennedy said he learned the importance of taking time to reflect on the day’s work.
“I really think every teacher should have this opportunity, because it makes you stop and think,” he said. “How are you going to grow if you do the same thing year after year? Teachers don’t have a lot of time to reflect.”
The 37-year-old is grateful for the extensive support he received from the District 204 community, noting that many fellows gave up their jobs to join the program.
“District 204 was so great to me — they made sure I had the opportunity to do this and come back (to my position at Neuqua,)” he said. “(Principal) Bob McBride understood how important it was for me to do this. I had their full support from the beginning.”
McBride said Kennedy’s acceptance into the program “speaks volumes about his intellect and skill as a teacher.”
“Certainly, he has the insights into science, knowledge of research techniques, and background in physics to be a nationally recognized teacher,” the principal said. “As important — and perhaps more important — is his passion for sharing the ideas of science with adolescent students. It is great to have Mike back. His voice — both as a science teacher and professional on staff — is incredible.”
Kennedy said he is grateful for the many colleagues who assisted in his absence, both in the classroom and on the track.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “I missed working with the science department at Neuqua. A lot of those people are my colleagues but also my friends.
“Paul Vandersteen made sure I could do this. Jaime Janota picked up a whole team and did a great job. I am so grateful.”