Alumnus Chosen for Knowles Teaching Fellowship

Justin Ragland to receive benefits valued at $150,000 for STEM teaching award

Justin Ragland

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumnus Justin Ragland has been chosen as one of 37 high school mathematics and science teachers nationwide to receive a Knowles Teaching Fellowship valued at $150,000. 

The Knowles Teaching Fellowship is a five-year program that supports early-career high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise and lead from the classroom. Through the program, fellows have access to grants for purchasing classroom materials, stipends, mentoring from experienced teachers and membership in a nationwide community of more than 400 teachers.

Fellows also have opportunities to engage in professional development and spearhead leadership activities that have an impact beyond their own classrooms. As of 2018, Knowles Teaching Initiative included 379 teaching fellows in 41 states.

Ragland is the second Ole Miss graduate to receive the fellowship, after Jessica Peralta received it in 2014. 

“As I learned more about the fellowship, it was obvious that it would be a great opportunity for me,” said Ragland, a St. Louis native. “What most excited me was the prospect of joining a nationwide network of young educators passionate about teaching and having a community of math and science teachers that I could connect with.” 

Ragland received a bachelor’s degree in science education and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM. He is a physics teacher at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Avondale, Louisiana, where he began teaching after graduation in 2018. 

“My favorite part about being a teacher, in particular a physics teacher, is that I get to provide opportunities for my students to learn more about the world around them,” Ragland said. “Those ‘light bulb’ moments that pertain to their own experiences are awesome.”

During his time at Ole Miss, Ragland worked as a Writing Center consultant for two years and as a laboratory teaching assistant for one semester. As a graduate research fellow with the UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education, he worked as a portable planetarium facilitator, traveling to facilitate a planetarium experience for K-12 students across Mississippi, and developed and led professional development for K-12 teachers.

“To be selected as a Knowles Teaching Fellow, Justin has demonstrated the potential to develop exceptional content knowledge and an eagerness to deepen that knowledge to become a reflective educator,” said Susan McClelland, chair of teacher education. “He has also shown that he has outstanding leadership qualities that will enable him to work collaboratively with colleagues in his field, learning from them and with them.”

Founded in 2002, the five-year teaching fellowships are designed to attract and retain high school STEM teachers who demonstrate a high level of content knowledge, effective teaching methods and show potential to become an influential teacher leader who will make a career of teaching.

Ragland is the first teacher in Louisiana to receive the award. 

“I am proud to be the first Knowles fellow in the state,” Ragland said. “It’s encouraging to me that a nationwide program such as this is beginning to make inroads in the South because I believe it has the capacity to positively impact a region that is often overlooked when it comes to education.”

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