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STEM teachers SOAR

64 eastern Kentucky teachers graduate with STEM expertise

Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are celebrating the graduation of 64 teachers from an innovative program that lays the groundwork for creating a Kentucky workforce trained in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

Through the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR)-STEM initiative, 100 K-12 teachers will return to local school districts in eastern Kentucky prepared to educate children in STEM fields.

“SOAR-STEM is a bold, unique initiative to develop the world’s largest workforce trained in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and centered in Kentucky,” says Rodney Hitch, director of Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. 

Students built robots in a STEM education camp in Salyersville. Photo: Steve Craycraft/Spectrum Photography

Graduates not only will implement STEM education in their classrooms, but will help train additional educators to teach STEM-related topics.

Each SOAR-STEM graduate completed a three-year curriculum to achieve a Teacher Leader master’s degree and certifications from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Project Lead The Way STEM curriculum. 

In addition to the degree and certifications, each graduate received:

A laptop computer, presented by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

An iPad and VEX Robotics Kit, from the Toyota Foundation, Appalachian Research Commission and Kentucky Department for Local Government.

Lead providers are Morehead State University, University of Pikeville and Union College. Other partners include the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Department of Education. Another 18 teachers are on track to graduate next year.

“The degree that I received has made me more proud than any accomplishment in my education career,” says Megan Bond, a teacher at Clay County’s Manchester Elementary, which is served by Jackson Energy Cooperative.

“I actually presented to my administration a proposal to increase our attendance,” Bond says. “That pilot carried out throughout the entire year and our attendance increased in my school, and we saved our district over $100,000.”

Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives helped to develop the SOAR-STEM project, identifying and engaging partners to fund and implement the program. The cost is covered by funding partners. Teachers must commit to remain with their school district for three years. 

SOAR is a nonpartisan economic development agency that works to expand job creation; enhance regional opportunity, innovation and identity; improve the quality of life; and support all those working to achieve these goals in eastern Kentucky.

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