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Two UNG grads earn Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to become STEM teachers

2018 UNG alumna Aneta Galazka and 2016 alumna Krista McDonald Buchanan have been awarded the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship.

Two University of North Georgia (UNG) graduates have earned the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship.

2016 alumna Krista McDonald Buchanan and 2018 alumna Aneta Galazka were picked as part of the 24-person cohort for the 2018 fellowship for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers. Gov. Nathan Deal announced in late June the Georgia honorees selected by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

The fellowship includes a $30,000 stipend toward master’s degree work. Winners make a three-year commitment to teach in a high-need urban or rural high school. They will receive support and mentoring during that time period.

Buchanan and Galazka join six previous UNG graduates selected as Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows: Jami Brownlee and Jonathan Long in 2017, Rachel Hastreiter and Catherine Harvey in 2016, and Christy Stromberg and James Herndon in 2015 as part of the state’s inaugural cohort of honorees.

Galazka, who is pursuing her graduate degree at Georgia State University, is interested in working in the Gwinnett County area during her teaching commitment. She said she wants to help high school students enjoy learning about math.

“People are so scared of math,” said Galazka, who moved to Georgia from Poland about 25 years ago at age 18. “But during my time at UNG, I’ve found the best instructors have real-life experience. I plan on being that kind of teacher — using the experience I’ve gained here to make better students.”

Gina Reed, a professor of math at UNG, has no doubts her former student will seize the opportunity.

“Aneta will thrive because she is always willing to apply all of her attention and energy to the tasks she has committed to,” Reed said. “She strives for excellence in all she does and as with mathematics, she will analyze and choose the best approach to excel while completing the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow program.”

Reed mentored Galazka and recommended her for the fellowship.

“Aneta deserves the fellowship because she wants to share her love of learning. I believe she will develop a strong rapport with her students,” Reed said. “Her presentations in class were always organized and clear. She will be an excellent role model for students when they see her exuberance and willingness to help them succeed.”

Prior to her senior year, Galazka spent 12 weeks in summer 2017 interning at the National Institute of Standards and Technology outside of Washington, D.C., a program that included 192 students from 47 states. Her research team project set up a high-speed wireless communications network that would perform even if a cell tower is damaged or destroyed.

Galazka graduated in May with a math degree and received the Clark Theodore Non-Traditional Student Award from UNG this spring.

Two years earlier, Buchanan graduated with a degree in biology. Now she is doing her graduate work at Mercer University.

Dr. Mark Davis, a professor of biology at UNG, said Buchanan’s positive nature and empathy stood out in his classroom. While most students were enthusiastic about some courses and not as interested in others, Buchanan’s passion for learning was always on display.

“She will carry that zeal into the classroom,” Davis said.

Buchanan worked on a project about foraging behavior in leaf-cutting ants and presented the work at the Georgia Academy of Science conference while Davis was her professor.

Davis said Buchanan will have the willingness to try different approaches to ensure her students understand the material.

Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president for research and engagement at UNG, said the fellowship is “a great opportunity for our STEM students who don’t know what they want to do next.”

She said the national scholarship helps meet a major need for the state, contributing to the University System of Georgia’s goal to produce 20,000 new teachers by 2020.

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