Skip to main content

Appalachia Mountain Teacher Fellows Kick Off Leadership Projects

The inaugural cohort of Mountain Teacher Fellows are working on their problem of practice in their communities. 

By Kimberly Prijatel

March 8, 2022

The Mountain Teacher Fellowship program is a community-focused initiative of Teach For America alums teaching in Central Appalachia. Fellows commit to an additional two years in the classroom, take part in 1:1 and small group leadership coaching, and also receive a modest stipend. As part of their work, Mountain Teacher Fellows identify a community or classroom challenge of their interest or concern and set about solving that challenge. The inaugural cohort of fellows have been actively working to identify and work toward resolution of their challenge. We invited a couple of the current fellows to sit down and share their experiences and progress with us. 

Can you tell us a little about your project? 

My project is to develop a game-based learning environment for chemistry. Students create space colonist avatars and play through the course solving challenges aboard their spaceship using chemistry. Through challenges and gaining in-game currency, they’re racing against each other to travel the furthest distance in space along a game board. Winning teams are celebrated at the end of the course with a special certificate and an official space explorer badge. 

Why did you choose this project? 

I chose this project to increase engagement with chemistry and encourage students to embrace applying themselves to solving complex problems requiring higher-order thinking and deeper understanding of chemistry principles and skills. So far two classes have successfully completed their space mission. Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive. Engagement is up and so are test scores. 

What's next for you with this project? 

Currently, I’m working on tweaking the space plotline for next year to include more hands-on learning experiences and add more challenges. I’m also working on creating a new game for the next course, Chemistry B, in which students play as Private Investigators using chemistry to solve murder mysteries.


Tell us a little about your project. 

Though my project is still in its infancy, its ultimate goal is to provide teachers with the knowledge and tools necessary to create inclusive and equitable classrooms for their students who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I am in the process of coordinating with community partners to best implement this educational opportunity, and I look forward to seeing how this project will grow over the next few months. 

Why did you choose this project? 

I found the resources, trainings, and professional development opportunities for teachers in Eastern Kentucky to be woefully lacking in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusivity.  Realizing this absence, I set out to provide an opportunity for educators to become better informed about best practices surrounding students who identify as LGBTQ+. Thankfully, while professional development opportunities are lacking, support for this project has been abundant.  Very quickly, I identified strong community partners to support this project.

What will you need for this project going forward? 

As aforementioned, my project requires strong community partnerships with counselors and other professionals to meet specialized needs in areas where teachers are not specifically trained. Further, I will need to identify teachers interested in this educational opportunity who will help steer this program to success.

What do you hope to be true by 2023 regarding this project? 

I hope that by 2023, this project turns into a successful event that can be duplicated for years to come.  It would mean so much to me if this project helps make classrooms more inclusive and safe for all students. 


Next year, fellows will implement their project and meet regularly to troubleshoot, evaluate and refine their projects with their cohort of like-minded teachers. They will also have the opportunity to share best practices, pitfalls, and advice with the new incoming cohort of Mountain Teacher Fellows coming this summer.