A graduate of Middle Park High School is the recipient of one of the most prestigious honors in her field.
Sarah Berger, who graduated from Middle Park in 2008, found out in March she will be receiving the dignified Knowles Fellowship, which last year was awarded to just 34 teaching fellows nationwide.
The teaching fellowship combines extensive financial and professional support, valued at around $175,000.
According to the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, about half of teachers leave the profession within the first five years due to a perceived lack of support and perceptions that teaching is an easy profession. With the fellowship, for the first five years of her teaching career Berger will receive mentoring, materials and access to professional development opportunities to "ensure Fellows continue to evolve as master teachers and leaders in education."
"I was very excited; I was kind of in shock," Berger said about finding out she'd been selected. "It's enormous for me professionally. It's going to give me a lot of opportunities and really help me develop as a teacher."
With a degree in biochemistry, Berger is currently finishing her teaching credentials at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is actively job-searching in communities surrounding Berkeley, Calif. One of the components of the fellowship is that she work at schools where a certain percentage of the population is at or below the poverty level.
Teaching fellowships are highly competitive and the selection process is rigorous, according to the Knowles Foundation. Only 10 percent of applicants are awarded the fellowship each year. They are awarded to aspiring teachers who have earned or are in the process of earning a degree in science, mathematics or engineering.
Berger, daughter of Scott and Patricia Berger of Tabernash, has also been a recipient of the Noyce Fellowship, a scholarship supporting her undergraduate education, and an annual $6,000 Hach scholarship supporting her pursuits in the chemistry-teaching field.
At Middle Park High School, Berger participated in volleyball and was a member of a then-fledgling science club.
"I feel really privileged," she said, "and I am thankful to all my teachers at Middle park and to my parents for being so supportive."