Competitive Fellowship Awarded to Chemistry Major

Madison Wardlaw ’20 is earning a master’s while teaching chemistry

September 16, 2020

Chemistry major Madison Wardlaw ’20 won a highly competitive WW Pennsylvania Teaching Fellowship for 2020–21.

Each fellow receives a $32,000 stipend for the year and enrolls in a master’s degree program that’s based on a yearlong classroom experience.

Wardlaw, who’s originally from Mississippi, is attending the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Her coursework began in July.

Wardlaw’s classroom experience was originally planned to be hybrid, but the Philadelphia school district decided to go all online shortly before classes started on Sept. 2. She’s working with a chemistry class that’s specifically for English language learners (ELL). The school has a large population of ELL students, about 50% of the student body, who speak many different languages.

“It’s really interesting with that dynamic but also the curveball of having to do it virtually,” Wardlaw says. She’s learning about virtual pedagogy and enjoying using tools like Google Meet that allows students to turn on closed captioning and change the language.

After she finishes her coursework and classroom experience in 2021, she’ll be assigned to teach in a high-need school in Philadelphia for 3 years. Several public schools there are project-based, which she’s excited about as a way to teach chemistry.

When Wardlaw came to Grinnell, she wanted to do science—she loves chemistry—and was thinking she might pursue intellectual property law after graduation. Then she took an education course with Deborah Michaels, associate professor of education.

“That kind of opened my eyes to where my passion really lies,” Wardlaw says. Her original interest in law was partly because she liked navigating systems of bureaucracy and power, but her shift to education came when she discovered “how much I like disrupting those systems and making them more equitable.”

She ended up taking nearly as many education credits as chemistry credits and was active in Ed Pros, the education professions career community offered through the Center for Careers, Life, and Service.

Leslie Bleichner ’07, the Lawrence S. Pidgeon Director of Ed Pros, helped Wardlaw explore programs across the United States, which is how she learned about the WW Foundation’s fellowship program.

Wardlaw’s interests in science, education, and social justice were forged at Grinnell, a place that also helped prepare her for a career that matters.


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