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Caldwell Early College High Chemistry Teacher Awarded Prestigious Grants for Professional Development and Classroom Innovation

Lauren Smith, an Honors Chemistry teacher at Caldwell Early College High School, has been awarded the American Chemical Society Hach Grant for Professional Development. This grant will enable her to participate in the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY, this summer.

Smith expressed enthusiasm about the opportunity, stating, “This training will provide me with the invaluable tools and resources that I look forward to sharing with my colleagues in the school district through ongoing professional development.”

The grant, amounting to $2,500, will also support the enhancement of Smith’s chemistry classroom by purchasing new teaching materials, resources, and software.

Smith has also been selected as a recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Promoting Innovation in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) grant. This $4,500 grant will be allocated with $2,000 earmarked for further professional development and $2,500 dedicated to enhancing her classroom’s chemistry lab. Smith’s winning grant proposal includes integrating fine arts into the chemistry curriculum.

By using art as an engagement tool and as content support, she hopes to enhance her students' understanding of abstract concepts in chemistry by connecting them to self-expressive, creative experiences within fine arts.

“I plan to incorporate several new art projects that are chemistry-based, and ideally, we will have a chemistry art gallery at the end of the school year when students will reflect upon their knowledge and understanding of the content as well as how that allows them to express themselves creatively,” said Smith.

Now in her 10th year as a chemistry teacher and 14th in education, Smith’s commitment to innovative teaching methods is well recognized. A resident of Lenoir since 2008, she taught previously at Challenger Early College High School in Hickory, NC, for 12 years and has been involved in New Schools Projects/Cooperative Innovative High Schools as a site researcher for innovative designs in inquiry-based learning in the science classroom. Smith is an alumna of Appalachian State University and holds National Board Certification.

Smith’s dedication to blending chemistry education with innovative approaches continues to enrich the academic experiences of her students and colleagues alike.