2021 Education Award Honoree: Mellisa Blankenship
Mellisa Blankenship, Director of Education, Kentucky Science Center | Category: Virtual Learning
Director of Education, Kentucky Science Center
Category: Virtual Learning
Fostering an appreciation for science comes easy for Mellisa Blankenship. She oversees the team that designs and implements a wide range of STEAM programs for kids and adults at the Kentucky Science Center. These programs are also being used annually in Kentucky and Indiana. During the pandemic, Mellisa and her team quickly developed a digital platform that would allow them to continue their passion of science literacy. “These programs [provided] resources that teachers could use in their new virtual classrooms. We also recorded weekly Do Science at Home social media experiences so that our families could continue to do science with us, even though our doors were closed,” she says.
Defining moment: My first job in education was in an environmental education camp as a camp counselor. I taught elementary students for a summer and then moved up in the organization to a full-time role. One summer when it was time to hire the next generation of camp counselors, I quickly recognized a few as previous campers. They shared that their experience in a fun, hands-on setting like our program inspired them to look for a “cool job that made them want to come to work.” It reminded me of the individuals that inspired me, and I knew that I wanted to continue to help students find their “cool job” in any way I could.
What students need now: The chance to meet people from a wide array of careers and backgrounds. Students need to be able to see themselves in a career and understand that there are individuals out there that have struggled and succeeded and that they can pursue anything they want to in life.
Changes she hopes to see: I see firsthand how students and teachers struggle with equity for their students. Often, they are faced with the challenge of how to ensure all students receive the support unique to them. There is a difference between equity and equality in the classroom and this last year has shown that equality doesn’t always ensure students are given the tools they specifically need to succeed. I hope our community can continue to support educators by providing them with the resources they need to ensure each student is able to reach their full learning potential.