By Taylor Budzikowski
Zach Alford ('16) received the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship earlier this year.
Alford is one of 24 recipients of the highly competitive fellowship in 2018. The fellowship selects educators who demonstrate impact and a strong background of STEM education in their undergraduate studies.
Alford received a $10,000 stipend to pursue his master's degree at Mercer University and is currently student teaching at Northside High School in Warner Robin, Georgia.
"I have laboratory experience for an entire year to say, 'well, what do I like, what do I not like, before I start my first year as an actual teacher in my own classroom,'" Alford said.
The teaching fellowship equips future teachers with one full year of classroom experience prior to full-time teaching. Fellows are paired with mentor teachers and are given the opportunity to work with a group of students through an entire academic year.
Alford values the daily practice he has gained throughout this student teaching experience at Northside High School.
Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows agree to teach for three years in a high-need school in Georgia, meaning most students are on free and reduced lunches. The fellowship provides teachers preparation and support as future teachers.
According to The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the program is a launching pad for teacher growth and development. The fellowship hopes to shape a new generation of educators to serve in high-need classrooms.
While at Taylor, Alford studied Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. Alford sought to transition to teaching mathematics after graduation. He knew a friend who received the fellowship two years prior to applying himself.
"Taylor students ought to consider applying for this more," Department Co-Chair and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Stefan Brandle said.
Brandle was delighted Alford had applied for and received the teaching fellowship. He believes Taylor students are well equipped in their undergraduate studies to compete with students from prestigious universities.
Alford plans to interview with several schools in the state of Georgia at the end of the school year to find the best fit for himself as a future math educator.
"I would not be opposed at all to working here, but it totally depends on what their needs are for the next school year in terms of math teachers," Alford said.
Alford values the experience he has gained through the fellowship and hopes to teach in a math department of teachers who collaborate and support each other well.