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Teacher wins grant for school

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Students in Melissa Altemose's science class participate in an experiment at W.A. Patillo Middle School.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

An Edgecombe County science teacher is headed to Atlanta next week to be honored as a finalist in the seventh annual Shell Science Lab Challenge.

Melissa Atlemose, an eighth-grade science teacher at W.A. Patillo Middle School, is one of five science teachers in the country to be honored at this level in the challenge. Though she is not the grand prize winner, Altemose is one of four finalists in the national contest. As a result of the win, Patillo Middle School will gain $6,000 in science lab and education resources and $1,000 toward professional development for science teachers. In addition, Altemose will attend the National Science Teacher’s Association Conference in Atlanta for free.

“I had no idea that I would get this far,” Altemose said. “But I had an overall vision to create a place where students could engage in inquiry activities in a hands-on way and feel that they are in a science lab.”

The Shell Science Lab Competition is designed to encourage secondary level science teachers who have demonstrated innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources. Teachers share their approaches during the competition with the goal of winning a lab makeover for their school. There were more than 500 entries in this year’s competition.

In a press release about the national finalists, competition judges explained their reasons for choosing Altemose and Patillo Middle School to receive a grant.

“Altemose works hard to create opportunities for her students to experience science concepts and ideas,” the release said. “She teaches in a rural school district with many priorities and needs that often restrict investment in science materials and curriculum that foster inquiry. Grant money will help her address some of these needs and also provide professional development for teachers and expose them to models of inquiry-based instruction available in the community.”

The release also described how Altemose plans to use the grant money.

“Her current lab supplies are scarce, so Altemose supplements them by personally purchasing the materials or seeking grants. Additional support will provide upgraded lab equipment so her students can learn the techniques they need to succeed in future STEM courses and careers. Altemose will use this grant to create a classroom environment that can serve as a model for rigorous, inquiry-based science instruction in rural communities nationwide and help to eliminate some of the inequalities that exist between rural and urban schools and students,” the release said.

Last month, Altemose learned that she was one of 18 district level winners in the country. At the district level, Altemose won $2,000 in lab supplies for her school plus an addition $1,000 toward professional development, bringing the total money for a lab makeover to $8,000.

Lauren Lampron, principal of Patillo Middle School, said she is thrilled with the news.

“I appreciate the fact that the National Science Teacher’s Association is honoring someone as dedicated as Miss Altemose because she does work really hard. This opportunity is going to help Miss Altemose with her professional development as a science teacher and will have a direct impact on student achievement at Patillo,” Lampron said.

Altemose said she is teaching at Patillo Middle School because word of Lampron’s leadership drew her there.

“I have been teaching in D.C. for the last few years,” said Altemose, who has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in science education from George Mason University. “I began by teaching in Halifax County and went to D.C. to learn best practices in science education because I knew they were doing some innovative work there. But I had friends in Edgecombe County who told me about Mrs. Lampron. It was her leadership that attracted me to the school this year.”

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