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National STEM Scholars Announced for 2022

12th May 2022

National Stem Cell Foundation Announces the Selection of Ten Middle School Science Teachers in Eight States to Participate in Unique Professional Development Program

By Investing in Influential Middle School STEM Teachers, Program Reaches Thousands of Students in Classrooms Today and Far into Future

LOUISVILLE, KY (May 12, 2022) – Ten middle school teachers from eight states have been selected to participate in the prestigious National STEM Scholar Program, a unique professional development program providing advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) training, national network building and project support for middle school science teachers nationwide.

Created in partnership between the National Stem Cell Foundation and The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University (WKU), the National STEM Scholar Program selects ten teachers each year from a national pool of applicants based solely on the description of a “big idea” Challenge Project the applicant would implement if funds were available. Selected projects are chosen for maximum impact in middle school classrooms where research shows lifelong STEM career decisions are being made. STEM Scholars convene on WKU’s campus for a week of advanced STEM training and finalize their projects with input from their STEM Scholar class colleagues.

The 2022 National STEM Scholar class will hosted by The Gatton Academy from May 29th to June 4th on the campus of WKU in Bowling Green, KY:

  • Susan Hall, Norfolk, MA – King Philip Middle School
  • Carey Hancey-Shier, Manassas, VA – Grace E. Metz Middle School
  • Kathleen Holliday, Tybee Island, GA – Tybee Island Maritime Academy
  • Tasha Jordan, Ferguson, MO – Johnson-Wabash Sixth Grade Center
  • Brandi Norman, Worden, MT – Huntley Projects Junior High
  • Jennifer Polacek, Woonsocket, RI – Hamlet Middle School
  • Tonya Prentice, Bass Harbor, ME – Tremont Consolidated School
  • Lori Schoenwiesner, Mechanicsville, VA – Oak Knoll Middle School
  • Marie Schuh, Spotsylvania, VA – Thornburg Middle School
  • Ashley Ventrella, Delray Beach, FL – American Heritage School Palm Beach

The National STEM Scholar Program brings a thought leader in STEM education to Kentucky each year for a day of interaction with the Scholar class. This year’s speaker will be Michelle Lucas, CEO of Higher Orbits. Michelle spent ten years working at NASA in International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control Operations Planning and as an Astronaut Instructor in the Daily Operations Group before founding Higher Orbits to inspire student passion for STEM through spaceflight.

Studies show that middle school students who become excited about science are the ones who will pursue STEM courses in high school and major in them at the technical and college level. At a pivotal time in decision-making that will open or close the door to opportunity, however, nearly 50% of 8th graders in America lose interest in pursuing the STEM related subjects increasingly required for 21st Century jobs.

Dr. Paula Grisanti, CEO of the National Stem Cell Foundation, said, “We added education to our mission and partnered with The Gatton Academy in 2015 to support the development of a new generation of scientists in academic research, advanced technology and infrastructure engineering. Supporting teachers who inspire and motivate middle school students at this critical decision-making age will directly impact how many choose to pursue the STEM skills essential for living wage jobs. By investing in the influential middle school STEM teacher now, we reach thousands of students in classrooms today and far into the future.”

Dr. Julia Link Roberts, Executive Director of The Gatton Academy, added, “This partnership will accrue benefits for the National STEM Scholars, middle school students in their classrooms, and the middle school science teachers with whom they collaborate. The National STEM Scholar Program is an excellent way for teachers to learn new strategies and new ways to engage students to help them become and stay interested in science and math.”

Now in its 7th year, there are 70 National STEM Scholars representing middle schools in 32 states. 90% teach in public schools, 40% teach in mid- to high-poverty schools and 36% teach in communities with a population under 15,000. A unique requirement of the program is the responsibility for STEM Scholars to share lessons learned with colleagues in their home schools, districts or states, magnifying impact over multiple classrooms and years. By June 2023, National STEM Scholars will have directly and indirectly impacted more than 83,000 middle school students in the U.S.

About the National Stem Cell Foundation
The National Stem Cell Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that funds adult stem cell and regenerative medicine research, underwrites the National STEM Scholar Program for middle school science teachers inspiring the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) pioneers nationwide, and covers copays and deductibles for children of limited means participating in clinical trials for rare diseases. For more information, visit

About The Gatton Academy

Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential two-year program for gifted and talented juniors and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Gatton Academy has been named to Jay Mathews’ list of top-performing schools with elite students for eleven consecutive appearances and received the National Consortium for Secondary STEM School’s Innovation Partnership Award.



National Stem Cell Foundation

Paula Grisanti, CEO