LiftOff Alumni Teachers Selected As 2013-14 Albert Einstein Fellows

Photo of Kaye EbeltKAYE EBELT is a 29-year veteran in elementary education in Montana. For the past 23 years she has taught at Target Range School in Missoula. She began her teaching career as a primary teacher. In 1996, she moved to middle school, to teach sixth, seventh and eighth grade Ancient, Montana and American History. For the past eight years, Ebelt has taught 5th grade math, science, language arts and robotics.

Ebelt has mentored pre-service teachers from The University of Montana. Throughout her career she has been involved in aerospace and aviation education.

Ebelt earned her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana and a Master of Education with a Computer Technology emphasis from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a Master of Science in Science Education with a Physics, Geology and Astronomy emphasis from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.

Ebelt was among the first group of teachers to be selected from Montana to participate in NASA's MicroGX and Reduced Gravity Flight in 2011. She and her team designed and engineered a liquid density experiment suitable for microgravity. She earned national recognition by receiving the A. Scott Crossfield Award in 2003 and was also inducted into the Crown Circle for Leaders in Aerospace Education in Cincinnati, Ohio. Montana Aeronautics also recognized her efforts by awarding her the Aviation Educator of the Year in 2001.

Learning to fly airplanes helped Kaye to generate an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. "The issue of increasing STEM proficiency, especially in engineering, for students, current and future teachers are of great interest to me." Seventeen years ago Kaye created a youth space camp with a strong STEM focus due to her participation in LiftOff - Extreme Life and LiftOff - Return to the Moon. As a LiftOff Alumni, she has spent her summer months putting on these camps all over Montana. During the past eight years, this camp which is titled, "Return to the Moon/Mission to Mars" is now a permanent summer youth program at the Missoula Family YMCA.

Photo of Sheryl SoteloSHERYL SOTELO has been teaching for 31 years, 7 years in Arizona and 24 years in Alaska. She most recently taught all subjects at the sixth grade at McNeil Canyon Elementary School in Homer, Alaska for the past eight years. She has taught intermediate elementary grades, middle school and elementary special services, and the intermediate level in a Montessori School. She has taught in rural Alaska villages including Gambell on St. Lawrence Island and Unalakeet in the Bering Strait School District. Sheryl and her husband, Ed taught at a two-teacher school, levels K-8 in Cooper Landing, Alaska. She utilizes a science thematic approach and project based learning in her teaching.

Sotelo holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a content emphasis in Science from Northern Arizona. She holds a dual teaching degree in elementary education and special education in the areas of learning disabilities and emotionally handicapped. She is certified at the intermediate level from North American Montessori Center. Her post-graduate work includes a Masters of Teaching degree from Grand Canyon University and an administrative credential from University of Alaska Anchorage.

"I believe that teaching must provide opportunities for active engagement with purpose, critical thinking, and innovation. Education must connect students with the natural world around them and build a literacy that empowers them to be responsible global citizens." This can be accomplished with powerful partnerships between students, schools, communities, agencies, experts and scientists. Teachers must seek out resources and professional development and extend the learning for themselves and their students beyond the classroom walls.

Sheryl Sotelo is married to Ed Sotelo who is also an educator. They live in Homer, Alaska. They have a grown daughter - Jess Sotelo, son-in-law Ron Kim, and soon to be, grandson Gus! Sheryl loves spending time with her family in Alaska and Arizona and her friends. She also enjoys learning, being outdoors, kayaking, reading, hiking, walking, and gardening.

Photo of 2013-2014 Einstein FellowsAs the 2013-14 school year commenced in classrooms across the nation, 27 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics began the year with the unique opportunity to serve as fellows with the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship program in Washington, DC. The fellows will spend the next 11 months working at one of four sponsoring federal agencies, which include the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Science Foundation (NSF). Albert Einstein Fellows provide practical classroom insight in establishing and operating education programs and policies, especially those related STEM education.

Representing 17 different states from as far as Alaska and as close as Washington, DC, this year's cohort includes four elementary school teachers, four middle school teachers, and 19 high school teachers. The group brings a total of 516 years of teaching experience at both private and public schools in urban and suburban, as well as rural areas. Four of this year's fellows are currently serving a second fellowship year.

Founded in 1990, the Albert Einstein Fellowship is awarded annually to K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics educators with demonstrated excellence in teaching. Fellowships aim to increase understanding, communication, and cooperation between the legislative and executive branches of the government and the STEM education community. The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Act, authorized by Congress in 1994, gave the DOE federal responsibility for the program. Triangle Coalition for STEM Education administers the program for the DOE Office of Science in partnership with the other participating federal agencies.

The 2013-14 Albert Einstein Fellows were selected through a rigorous application and interview process from a competitive, nationwide pool of nearly 200 applicants.