Two Bakken Elementary teachers have been recognized for their work in the field of STEM education.
Brandi Mehlhoff and Audrey Angelo were chosen for the STEM Education Fellowship program, sponsored by energy company Equinor through the Equinor North Dakota Charitable Fund held by the Northwest North Dakota Community Foundation.
The fellowship program provides STEM educators with resources that support the development and enhancement of STEM education in the region. Mehlhoff and Angelo were presented with a check for $6,000 on Wednesday at the Bakken's library, where they gave Ward Koeser, president of the NWND Community Foundation, a tour of the area they use for their STEM classes.
The pair showed off several of the projects students have been working on, including programming robots, engineering with LEGO bricks and working with green screen technology.
Koeser, a former educator himself, said he was impressed by how technologically advanced classes are compared to when he was teaching.
"This whole idea of STEM education is exciting," Koeser said. "The way they teach it now, it's so wonderful compared to the old overhead projectors that we use to use."
Mehlhoff and Angelo were selected through an application process to participate in the fellowship program. As part of the professional development activities they will be taking part in, the pair will be traveling to San Antonio, Texas, in February to attend the Texas Computer Education Association's 2019 convention and exposition.
Mehlhoff and Angelo said the convention will help them gain some insight and knowledge that they will be able to integrate into their technology curriculum.
"I'm excited for whatever I can find that will work in the classroom," Mehlhoff said. "If I can find new techniques, new technology...I say 'new things', and I don't even know what might be out there. I might not even know what I'm searching for until I get there!"
Angelo added that she is looking forward to participating in courses that will help students learn based on their own specific needs.
"One of the classes that I'm really excited about taking kind of aligns with our new superintendent's vision for personalized learning," she explained. "His vision is having us, as teachers, personalize the experience for each of the kids based on what they're interested in. All of the classes are based around online learning and also personalized learning, so I think that will help us come back and further his vision."
The pair said they are "ecstatic" to have been chosen for the fellowship, and are extremely grateful to both Equinor and the NWND Community Foundation for the opportunity. Koeser stated that he is also grateful to Equinor for the contributions they have made to the program and the Williston area as a whole.
"Our partnership with Equinor is remarkable, allowing the community foundation to support its community giving directives through new projects and initiatives, like the STEM Fellowship program,' he said. "We are so appreciative of their investment in the community foundation and our region."
Equinor representative Darren Schmidt said Equinor supports a number of efforts in the area to encourage and enhance technology education in the area, and that he is excited to be part of an organization that is working to catalyze and fund teachers to be able to share that knowledge with the younger generation. He added that with an increase in the amount of technology being integrated into various professions, learning these skills at a young age will help prepare students as they enter the workforce later on.
"We're ever increasing in technology and the types of skills that create the innovation that produces economic development," he said. "It hits home out here in the Bakken, specifically in North Dakota and the workforce development issues that we have, trying to keep up with technology and the fast growing pace out here in Western North Dakota. So we certainly need a highly advanced and skilled workforce to continue to produce a strong position for the state."