White House Honors Teacher For Achievements In STEM Education

An Atlanta STEM teacher was awarded a Presidential Award for his impact on STEM education efforts in marginalized communities.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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STEM teacher

To many, a Presidential Award is the utmost honor that can be bestowed upon an individual. Many think of such awards as going to military personnel as a measure of bravery, but there is also high regard in other fields. Each year, the White House honors an individual or organization for exemplary STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) efforts. This year, an Atlanta-based STEM teacher was honored with that award. 

Junior Bernadin was recently named the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math, Science, and Technology Mentoring. The decoration was bestowed upon the STEM teacher for his noticeable advancement efforts in educating underprivileged and underrepresented students in the field of science. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Math, Science, and Technology Mentoring was established in 1995. Before this year’s STEM teacher, individuals like Ovourton Jenda and Richard Tapia, and organizations like the EDGE Foundation and the National Society of Black Engineers have been recipients. Last year, Joyce Yen, the Director of the University of Washington ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change won the honorary award. 

Staking a claim to being the recipient of a Presidential Award isn’t the only thing the STEM teacher will receive. Additionally, Bernadin will be invited to an awards ceremony in the nation’s capital. He will also be given access to National meetings regarding STEM education, research, and policy leaders. On top of that, he will be awarded ten thousand dollars. 

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Lewis Jacobs/ Still Photographer, 2008

A Miami Florida native, Mr. Bernadin holds a B.A. in International Affairs from Florida State University and an M.S. in IT Management from Regis University. He also has certifications as a Promethean Certified Installer and Microsoft Certified Professional. He is making a huge difference in information technology initiatives. 

When Bernadin opened the email declaring him as the White House’s choice for the award, Bernadin told Fox Atlanta he was shocked. “I just stared at the email…it was a very emotional moment for me,” said the STEM teacher. Going on, Bernadin expressed how impassioned he was as the son of an immigrant family from Haiti who moved to the United States for more opportunities.

Bernadin has played a major role in shaping his students’ lives through the teaching of STEM. The STEM teacher says this is because he always tries to teach his students purpose. Early on in his career, he noticed a distressing disparity between who was being represented in STEM education initiatives.

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Data and research back up Bernadin’s hypothesis. According to the Pew Research Center, Blacks represent only 9% of STEM field workers in the United States. Among Black workers in the same field that hold bachelor’s degrees, they only represent 7% of the workforce. The study concluded that marginalized communities are not getting the same level of exposure to STEM-related fields. 

According to The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, America will need to add 1 million more STEM professionals to meet workforce needs by the end of  2022. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor states that Black youth are the least likely racial group to enter technology fields. Regardless, this STEM teacher is making a dent in this data, one student at a time.