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ASU alum awarded prestigious STEM teaching fellowship

August 12, 2013

New Jersey-based Knowles Science Teaching Foundation has awarded Clarissa Toupin, a 2009 Arizona State University anthropology graduate, a five-year teaching fellowship to help her pursue a master’s degree in education at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. Toupin, a Glendale resident, plans on becoming a high school biology teacher upon graduation.

The foundation grants fellowships in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The awards are designed to meet the needs of teachers from the beginning of the credentialing process through early career.

“The fellowship recipients have access to a support system of education professionals who will offer a variety of resources – including classroom materials – and mentorship and professional development opportunities,” she said. “These resources will allow me to evaluate and improve my own teaching processes.”

While pursuing her undergraduate degree at ASU, Toupin worked as a teaching assistant in undergraduate science and high school special education classes. She also pursued internships as a forensic anthropologist at the Maricopa Forensic Science Center, a bioarchaeologist in Sudan and an archeologist in South Africa. The experiences allowed her to discover her passion for teaching and engage with people from diverse backgrounds.

“At the same time, I recognized the dearth of women working in the STEM disciplines, as well as the alarmingly low number of general education students planning to attend college,” she noted.

To make an impact on a grassroots level, Toupin decided to launch a series of lectures titled, "College is Cool," aimed at high school students, and especially girls. During the lectures, she emphasized that college can be accessible, fun and rewarding. With the help of visual and interactive aids from the forensic lab and her travels in Africa, she stressed the importance of STEM education.

Toupin went on to pursue a master’s degree in biological anthropology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, but despite enjoying research, she decided to become a high school teacher.

“For me, stepping out of the lab and into an occupation in education means having the opportunity to make a difference, not only in the lives of the students in my class, but in the school, the district, the community and in the very policies driving STEM education in our states and nation,” she said.

Toupin will begin the master of education program at ASU in the fall of 2013. She is excited to return to the university and hopes to teach at an inner-city school or an advanced college preparatory school after finishing her studies.