Amazon is excited to announce the 2022 cohort of Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award recipients. Each year, Amazon celebrates 10 dynamic teachers who promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom to encourage students to pursue careers in computer science and robotics. For the first time, you can ask your Alexa device, “Who are the Amazon Future Engineer Teachers of the Year?” and Alexa will share the following list of this year’s educator recipients:
- Aisha Chadwick, Chapel Hill Elementary School, Decatur, Georgia
- Regan Clark, West Decatur Elementary School, Decatur, Alabama
- Darren Ehrhardt, Central Islip Senior High School, Central Islip, New York
- Jennifer Hall, Dell H. Robison Middle School, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Wanda Jones, Nova Middle School, Davie, Florida
- Voke Ogueh, Alief Hastings High School, Houston, Texas
- Sangmin Pak, Richmond Hill High School, Queens, New York
- Maureen Ryan, Jasper County Middle School, Monticello, Georgia
- Tymond Tran, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Lynn, Massachusetts
- Billy Urena, William L. Dickinson High School, Jersey City, New Jersey
“We are excited to recognize our third cohort of Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year recipients and celebrate their efforts over the past year to increase access to computer science opportunities in their classrooms and beyond,” said Victor Reinoso, global director of Amazon’s philanthropic education initiatives. "Despite another difficult year with unique challenges brought on by the pandemic, we were impressed by the immense creativity and dedication of these teachers to help their students excel and build fundamental computer science and coding skills that will help them achieve their career goals, whatever those might be.”
One of this year’s winners is Aisha Chadwick, a DeKalb County School District kindergarten and fifth-grade teacher. Through the Amazon Future Engineer program, Amazon is funding computer science curriculum and teacher professional development for 30 elementary schools in the district, impacting more than 10,000 students from underserved communities and groups currently underrepresented in tech.
Amazon is working with BootUp PD, a nonprofit professional development provider, specializing in elementary school education, to bring computer science to 500,000 elementary students by 2025. Teachers like Chadwick make that effort possible. She lives the school’s motto of “STEMulating future engineer careers” and introduced the first age-appropriate computer science and coding curriculum to her school for younger learners.
Chadwick is the co-sponsor of Chapel Hill Elementary’s Innovative Designers Club, which teaches older students the engineering design process and helps them prepare for the district’s technology fair. Working with students as young as five years old, Chadwick teaches students how to use programs such as Scratch and ScratchJr to make animated pictures and videos, and she has designed fun, gamification projects to make learning how to code fun for kids of all ages. She also sponsors Chapel Hill Elementary's Girl CODE, which encourages girls to learn how to code and be game designers. During the pandemic, Chadwick’s school community said that her innovative strategies and techniques “saved the day” and her leadership helped grow virtual engagement and technology skills during remote learning.
Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year recipients were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in computer science education, a recommendation from a school administrator, and compelling, personal anecdotes about their school and students. Scholarship America reviewed the applications and selected the 10 award recipients. Of this year’s cohort, 40% of recipients identify as Black, Latino, or Native American, and 60% identify as women.
Each award-winning teacher received a prize package valued at more than $30,000, which includes $25,000 to expand computer science and/or robotics education at their school and a $5,000 cash award for the educator to celebrate their exemplary work with students. They are invited to join the Amazon Future Engineer Teacher Advisory Council where they’ll receive professional development opportunities, connect with like-minded computer science educators, and advise on current and upcoming Amazon Future Engineer initiatives.
Recipients also have the opportunity to attend re:MARS, an Amazon event that brings together the brightest leaders in science, academia, and business to explore how applications of the machine learning, automation, robotics, and space (MARS) domains will shape the future. re:MARS will take place in person, June 21–24, at the ARIA Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I’m honored to receive this recognition from Amazon and grateful for the support from my school in helping us create new opportunities for students and nurture the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) leaders,” said Chadwick. “Many of my students feel that computer science is not an option for them, but I’ve seen computer science bring out tremendous creativity and passion in students once they’re given a chance. I’m looking forward to enhancing the programming I can offer to girls at my school—showing them that coding can be an exciting and viable option for all genders—and investing in more robotics that are kindergarten and pre-K friendly for my younger students.”
Computer science is the fastest-growing profession in the STEM field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecaststhat job opportunities for computer science workers will grow 13% between 2020 and 2030, yet only 8% of STEM graduates earn a computer science degree, and only a small percentage of those come from underserved and historically underrepresented communities. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $97,430 in May 2021, which is more than twice the median annual wage for all occupations.
Amazon Future Engineer aims to bridge the divide between interested students and access to computer science courses and opportunities. A childhood-to-career education program, Amazon Future Engineer gives elementary, middle, and high school students—from diverse communities around the globe—access to computer science education where they can explore project-based learning initiatives, using code to make music, program robots, and solve problems. Funding from Amazon Future Engineer also provides teachers access to inclusive computer science curriculum and professional development opportunities. In addition to its annual Teacher of the Year program, each year Amazon Future Engineer awards 250 students with four-year, $40,000 scholarships and paid internships at Amazon. The program is currently available in the U.S., UK, France, Canada, India, and Germany. Learn more about the Amazon Future Engineer program.