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Giving Back to UNC Education Students

Stephanie Klixbull on UNC campus

April 11, 2022

Last month, the College of Education and Behavioral Science welcomed one of their distinguished alumni back to campus for a special keynote presentation. Stephanie Klixbull graduated from UNC in 2013 with a degree in Elementary Education and an emphasis in Music Education and Special Education. She returned to UNC’s School of Teacher Education on March 29 to share her experiences with student and to discuss her work to promote STEM in elementary education with the United States Department of Defense (DOD) as a member of the 2021-22 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship (AEF).  

 The AEF program provides fellows the opportunity to work in a federal agency or in a U.S. Congressional office, bringing their extensive knowledge and experience in the classroom to education programs and/or education policy efforts. One of 18 educators selected nationwide for this program, Stephanie relocated to Washington D.C. to begin work with the U.S. DOD and Navy at Carderock Naval Surface Warfare Center. She’s working to help strengthen K-12 STEM initiatives, focusing on lower grade levels and Special Education-accessible activities. 

 As the largest federal agency hiring a STEM workforce (48% of the DOD workforce is based in STEM) the DOD understands that stronger STEM programs in our schools means stronger employment candidates at the federal level. In addition, the demand for careers in fields like cybersecurity and software development will only increase in coming years.  

 Stephanie started her career teaching science as a performing educator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science before moving to South Carolina to teach science and math at the elementary level in Berkeley County School District. In 2018, she received the Max E. Lundquest Outstanding Young Educator Award from the International STEM Educator Association for her work in early childhood STEM curriculum and the following year was named the 2019 South Carolina Teacher of the Year. Stephanie also has a master’s degree in STEM Education from The Citadel College in South Carolina.  

 With her current role, Stephanie has access to leaders in the STEM field, with their expertise informing how she hopes to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders. However, she also wanted to use this opportunity to give back to the institution that started all for her: UNC.   

 “When I landed this fellowship opportunity, I knew I wanted to use it to shine a light on UNC in some way,” Stephanie said. “After some uncertainty about where I fit in when first starting college at UNC, I changed majors and I found an immediate sense of belonging in the School of Teacher Education. Suddenly I was excited about participating in on-campus activities and organizations and learned more than I ever would have thought possible. UNC and the School of Teacher Education taught me who I was as a learner, and I hope students that came to my keynote walk away with an understanding of what is being done to promote elementary-level STEM at a federal level, but also an understanding of what is possible with a UNC education.” 

 ~ written by Rachel Ehnert  

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