Smithsonian Science Education Academy

A professional development opportunity for fourth through ninth grade science teachers.  Venture to Washington D.C. for a week-long program taking you behind the scenes of the Smithsonian Museum and its world-class facilities.  While training in science pedagogy, hear advice and learn from experts in the field of science and research.  As middle level educators, you can explore the D.C. area, develop workshops and build professional development from the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers (SSEATs).  

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Participants can choose from one of two sessions: 

  1. June 19 - 24, Biodiversity 
  2. July 17 – 22, Earth’s History & Global Change ​

CMU’s Center for Excellence in STEM Education will provide: 
  • Registration for the event - $2,500 per participant, which includes workshops, housing, and some meals. 
  • A travel voucher for $500, participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.
Following the summer professional development, teachers have the opportunity to: 
  • Participate in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) with colleagues who attended SSEATs. The PLC will meet four times the following year (twice in fall and twice in spring). 
  • Develop teacher workshops and student outreach at the CMU Center for Excellence in STEM Education. 
Sponsored by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation 

Smithsonian Teacher Academy​

MacKensye Ancona is a special education teacher at Renaissance Public School Academy in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. She services the needs of the students who have learning exceptions in sixth through eighth grade. She has been teaching for two years now with experience working with students in grades fifth through eighth.

​She has also worked with students who have a cognitive impairment during practicum experiences. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Education in December 2014. Currently, she is working towards her master's in curriculum and i​nstruction that should be complete in December of 2016. In her two years as a new teacher, she has started a recycling club, managed a school-wide RTI system with colleagues, coached volleyball, and is lead teacher in the facilitation of the Youth Astronomy Network presented by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Overall, she wishes to continue her own learning so she can bring back authentic experiences to the classrooms that are appropriate for all learners.

Mark Francek earned his doctorate in geography from the University of Wisconsin and is currently professor of geography and faculty fellow for the Center for Teaching Excellence at Central Michigan University. He teaches courses in science education, soil science, and earth science and has research interests in earth science education. In 2016, Mark was awarded the College Teacher of the Year from the Michigan Science Teachers Association. He was also recipient of Distinguished Service Award from the National Earth Science Teachers Association and was named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year, 2007. Mark is a passionate believer that the best science instruction grows out of building classroom community, holding students accountable for their learning, and showing students the relevance of science to their everyday lives.

Amy Gaudard is a fifth grade teacher in the Mt. Pleasant Public School District. She teaches math, science and social studies to two groups of students. Amy holds a bachelor's degree from Alma College as well as a master's degree from Marygrove in curriculum, assessment and Instruction. She has taught for 7 years and is also an avid coach. Amy is always looking for better ways to teach her students and is excited for the opportunity that this academy provides.

Erin Guillen is a STEM teacher at Renaissance Public School Academy in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. She teaches grades third through fifth and is in charge of an elective class that allows for a new STEM activity to take place each week. She received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Central Michigan University. During her time at Renaissance, she has worked in the after school program, coached the fifth through eighth grade girls’ basketball teams and currently enjoys advising both the hypernet and newspaper club, as well as assisting with the Youth Astronomy Network Workshop. 

Her students understand that she cares for them and only wants the best for each and every one. Making meaningful connections and treating her students with the utmost respect could not be more important Erin.

Wendy Hoyle is a graduate of Central Michigan University and has been teaching for eight years in middle level education. Four of the eight years were spent teaching language arts to seventh graders in Northern Virginia. This experience has greatly impacted her approach to teaching sixth grade in Michigan. Currently, Wendy is teaching sixth grade in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and is working toward her master's in teaching through Augustana University. Integrating technology, science, and social studies into the language arts curriculum is an important focus in her classroom.

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Kathy Jenkins is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science and an Master of Arts in Secondary Administration. Her passion for children of all ages and program development have made for an active life in 27 years of public school education. She has been involved in a variety of teaching capacities including program development, mentoring, curriculum development and more.

In her current science position at Beaverton Rural Schools, she’s working to bring more structured and involved STEM options into the lives of her middle schoolers in an effort to maximize their future opportunities in science.
Ron Ratkos is a Central Michigan University graduate with degrees in both science and music education. Although once known to direct a band or choir or two, he is currently returning to his passion and teaching seventh grade science as well as environmental science at Mid-Michigan Community College. Don’t worry, he still directs an orchestra now, just for fun. 
Ron is currently a member of The American Association of Chemistry Teachers as well as various committees promoting excellence in education. He has held past memberships in the National Science Teachers Association, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and The Michigan Band and Orchestra Association. He resides in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan with his lovely wife Kristen and four children.
Kristen Simons has been a teacher at Swan Valley Schools for 18 years. Her career began as an elementary computer teacher for Havens and Shields elementary. For the past 6 years she has been a sixth grade science teacher. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Western Michigan University and her master’s degree from Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU)​ in natural science.  As a part of her ongoing quest for professional improvement, she has been a part of several summer learning opportunities including a Dow Fellowship through SVSU and the ASM Materials Camp for Teachers in Ann Arbor. She is very excited for this new, unique opportunity!

Jennifer Smith is a fourth grade teacher at Floyd Elementary School in the Bullock Creek School District. Over the past 6 years, she has taught many grades at the elementary level, including fourth, fifth and K-2 Title 1/At-Risk.  

She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Central Michigan University in 2009. In 2013, she graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a master’s degree in principalship.  

During her time at Floyd, she has enjoyed being a part of many activities and learning communities, including District Achievement Team and Girls on the Run.  

Jennifer "Jenni" Snider has taught for more than 30 years. The first 24 at the high school level and the past 6 years (and currently) at the middle school level. During that time she has taught a variety of science, geography and political science courses. Her main subject has been earth science. Her undergraduate degree is from CMU. Jenni believes every student that enters her classroom is in need of individual inspiration and direction. She continually seeks out seminars, workshops, webinars, etc. that assist in her goal to reach every student.

She is a member of the Michigan Science Teachers Association, the National Science Teachers Association, the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators and the Association for Middle School Education. She has received the Saginaw News Crystal Apple Award and currently teaches eighth grade science at Marshall Greene Middle School, Birch Run Area Schools.

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Allison VanDriessche graduated from CMU where she studied psychology and exercise science. She went on to study education at Saginaw Valley State Un​iversity where she received her teaching endorsement and master’s degree in education focusing on educational leadership. Allison has worked in education for the past 19 years in both the middle school and high school settings. Allison is currently working at Western Middle School as a sixth grade science teacher. She has been involved in bringing STEM education not only to her classroom but to her building and district. Allison has set up Family Engineering nights, and monthly science events for the students at her building ranging from outreach programs to college planning. She has also partnered with Saginaw Valley State University and the Dow Corning Foundation to create an outdoor classroom area and bring aquaponics and hydroponics to her building for her students. Allison is also working hard to bring the modeling style of teaching to her building as well. .