McNeil Elementary School teacher Sheryl Sotelo is the recipient of the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship.
Sotelo is among 27 science, technology, engineering and mathematics educators chosen for the program. Fellowship winners spend 11 months in the Washington, D.C., area working with scientific agencies that include the Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and NOAA.
“I spent many years in my childhood on archaeological dig sites, or in the lab on the off-season cataloging pottery pieces,” she said. “He taught me that observational skills where extremely important as well as documenting your findings due to the destructive nature of archaeology and disturbing a site. You were entrusted to tell the story of what you found and about the people who lived there as accurately as was possible.”
Her grandfather loved learning and modeled a respect for the people and world around him. Sotelo continued her interested in science through professional development and science conferences. She gravitates projects that involve students in real field science and help them share their learning with a wider audience. One involved an articulation of a brown bear skeleton that was hit by a car in Cooper Landing.
Local bone expert Lee Post also helped with the project that resulted in a bear skeleton currently residing in the Cooper Landing Museum.
She also did a Bear in the Box project with Homer students, parents, and Lee Post. The bear skeleton can be put together and taken apart over and over. The kit traveled on the Kenai Peninsula and many students are able to assemble an actual brown bear skeleton.
Sotelo’s sixth grade class recently completed the assemblage of Remote Operating Vehicles modeled on actual units used in the ocean to inspect oil rigs and collect scientific data.
“I appreciate the support of this community for education. It is wonderful to teach here,” she said. “I also believe in students being part of citizen science efforts. McNeil students have been involved in Coast-walk and marine debris clean-ups, invasive weed pulls, invasive species monitoring, salmon stream monitoring, and Bio-Blitz habitat monitoring and documenting.”
These activities increase awareness and appreciation for the world around us. We work with local science enthusiasts, scientists, experts. It is generally a team effort, she said. The team is a caring, knowledgeable community.
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