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STEM educator receives trustees’ highest alumni honor

Sharon Wensel Bowers
May 01, 2014

The McDaniel College Board of Trustees presented its prestigious Trustee Alumni Award to award-winning science educator Sharon Wensel Bowers on April 25 at the annual trustee-faculty dinner.

Bowers, who earned her B.A. in 1978 and a master’s degree in special education in 1984, is a distinguished Educator-in-Residence working for the National Institute of Aerospace and Virginia Beach City Public Schools. More than three decades of working with children has earned her recognition as a Secondary Science Presidential Award Winner for Virginia. She is a faculty member for the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy and has been a writer and reviewer for Harcourt Science.

McDaniel President Roger Casey cited Bowers as an exceptional example of what a WMC/McDaniel liberal arts and sciences graduate can accomplish with intelligence, energy, and zeal and passion for learning.

STEM educator receives trustees’ highest alumni honor
Sharon Wensel Bowers with President Roger Casey (left) and Board Chair Martin K.P. Hill (right)

In a partnership between McDaniel College, Carroll County Schools and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), she is developing and teaching five graduate courses at the college that will lead to a certificate in elementary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. The McDaniel STEM program is designed to show teachers best practice approaches to integrate STEM topics into classroom learning.

“It’s not just about growing scientists and engineers,” says Bowers. “It’s also about helping all children have a level of STEM literacy so that they can better understand their world.”

And it isn’t about content alone, Bowers says. Youngsters need to learn the processes of STEM – to think critically, to solve problems creatively, to gather data and use it to form good arguments.

As an Educator-in-Residence at NIA, Bowers focuses on developing a variety of educational programs and projects that help prepare teachers to integrate STEM topics into their classroom teaching. Development of the five-course STEM program for McDaniel is just one of her many projects – albeit one that is close to her heart.

STEM educator receives trustees’ highest alumni honor
Sharon Wensel Bowers and College trustee and Professor of Mathematics Emeritus Jim Lightner with Chemistry Professor and department chair Richard Smith

“I grew up in Carroll County and still have deep roots here and at McDaniel,” says Bowers, a doctoral candidate in Integrative STEM Education at Virginia Tech University. “For me, this is like coming home.”

Bowers thanked her professors who taught her “to write, to teach and to be a flexible thinker.” Borrowing from the Carole King song lyrics of “Tapestry,” Bowers  says her life is like a tapestry and “the influences from family and faculty and friends are a wondrous, woven magic in bits of green and gold.”