Biology alumna Nicole Stumbling Bear (class of 2019), was just awarded “Beginning Teacher of the Year” at Gray's Creek Middle School in Hope Mills, North Carolina, where she teaches 7th-grade science. This outstanding achievement comes as no real surprise, given Stumbling Bear’s excellence in scholarship during her undergraduate years at UNC Pembroke. She was enrolled in the First Americans’ Teacher Education (FATE) grant program, was recipient of a 2019 STEM Pre-Service Teacher Education Scholarship through the North Carolina Space Grant, and was awarded a Cobell Scholarship from Indigenous Education, Inc. Moreover, she worked as a researcher in the Bahr Lab while earning two undergraduate degrees -- Secondary Education with a concentration in Biology, and a B.S. degree in Biology.
Read what Ms. Stumbling Bear and Dr. Ben Bahr have to say about her latest achievement:
Nicole Stumbling Bear:
On May 28th, 2021, I was announced as the Gray’s Creek Middle School Beginning Teacher of the Year. As a beginning teacher the first few years can be a challenge and to be a teacher during a pandemic is indescribable. To pull through with professionalism and dignity intact during this academic year is no small feat. Thankfully I had my experience at the Bahr Lab to fall back on.
Just to be accepted to work and learn in the Bahr Lab is an honor. I worked one on one with students of different ethnicities, nationalities, a host of different life experiences, and struggles. I learned techniques from high-performing researchers and gifted college students. That gave me some insight into student and instructor life outside of the classroom and prepared me for teaching students online where I was suddenly thrown into students’ personal lives.
The research done in the Bahr Lab can be demanding but very valuable. I learned that some analysis may not come out ideally but all data has statistical merit. That prepared me for when meticulously planned instruction falls flat with students and their work does not meet expectations there was still value in our effort.
Most of all I learned that work driven by passion is an honorable thing. The Bahr Lab’s research into therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, brain traumas, and other protein aggregate diseases can be grueling. The key thing that keeps the lab running is the passion shown by Dr. Bahr, Dr. Farizatto, and Mr. Almeida. That passion encourages students to learn laboratory research skills and to find the research they wish to pursue. I was able to bring that example into my classroom and use it to lead over a hundred students during a paradigm shift in education.
Dr. Ben Bahr:
The undergraduate research and training programs at UNC-Pembroke are especially helpful to prepare not only our future scientists but also our important science educators. Ms. Stumbling Bear is an excellence example of how research projects excite our students to stimulate goals to strive for, in this case to become a great teacher to carry on the teaching of young students critical thinking and intellectual inquiry. She is also hoping to continue her education at UNCP for a master’s degree.