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Gov. Brian Kemp recently recognized nine aspiring educators, including Jackson native Erik Sylvain, as part of the newest class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows.

Jackson native Erik Sylvain was among the members of the 2019 class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows recognized last month in Atlanta by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The five-year-old program is aimed at closing the achievement gap and providing students with high-quality teachers.

Sylvain earned a bachelor of arts from Mercer University in 2018.

With the nine aspiring educators saluted Aug. 14, the fellowship program will have prepared, in a program originally slated to have only three cohorts, nearly 200 beginning educators over the last five years to lead STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) classes in the state’s high-need secondary schools, program officials said. The newest class includes aspiring teachers at Mercer University, joining teachers who have earned master’s degrees from Columbus State University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Mercer, and Piedmont College since the program began in 2014. The competitive fellowship recruits both recent graduates and career changers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math.

“As governor, I am committed to providing a world-class education to Georgia students, regardless of their zip code, and we need the best and brightest educators to reach this objective,” Kemp said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s efforts to improve our teacher pipeline, and I applaud the incoming class of fellows for accepting the call to public service.”

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship focuses on preparing educators for many of Georgia’s most underserved public schools. Each 2019-20 fellow receives $20,000 to complete a specially designed master’s degree program based on a yearlong classroom experience. In return, fellows commit to teach for three years in the urban and rural Georgia schools that most need strong STEM teachers. Throughout the three-year commitment, fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring, program officials said.

“Five years ago, the Georgia Teaching Fellowship began its work to help close the state’s achievement gap and ensure the best STEM educators possible for all learners,” W.W. Foundation President Rajiv Vinnakota said. “We are proud of the nearly 200 educators who have been part of this program to date and applaud Governor Kemp, our university and K-12 partners, and the Woodruff Foundation for their collective commitment to improve the quality and size of Georgia’s teacher pipeline.”

Through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has contributed to former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s and the University System of Georgia’s initiative to produce 20,000 new teachers by 2020, program officials said. Woodrow Wilson is administering the program, with in-state coordination by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. Current project funding is $13.7 million.

All university partners, initially selected in a statewide review by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, spent years tailoring their teacher preparation programs to meet the fellowship’s standards for intensive clinical work and rigorous related coursework, program officials said. All five participating universities received $400,000 matching grants.

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship also operates in Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Georgia program brings the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s total commitment to the fellowship to more than $100 million nationally. More information on the national program can be found at http://woodrow.org/fellowships/ww-teaching-fellowships.