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From BBQ to Coding, Teacher Honored for Classroom Impact


Mallard Creek STEM Academy teacher Michelle Pierce

"I love the challenge of teaching something to students . . . that they may not have otherwise considered trying," says Michelle Pierce, a 2021 Amazon Teacher of the Year.

Credit: Jeff Siner / The Charlotte Observer

Michelle Pierce, a teacher at Mallard Creek STEM Academy in Charlotte, N.C., is one of ten U.S. educators named a 2021 Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year. Pierce was recognized for her work to inspire students from underserved and historically underrepresented communities to pursue careers in computer science and robotics.

The award includes a $5,000 cash prize for Pierce and a $25,000 gift to the school to be used for learning resources.

Pierce was an elementary school teacher before stepping away from the classroom in 2015 to co-own a barbecue food truck and catering company with her husband.

While looking for a school for one of her children, she visited Mallard Creek STEM Academy. "Our values were aligned," says Principal Deanna Smith. Pierce substituted at the school before becoming the middle school computer science teacher three years ago.

"A lot of computer science is about exposure," Pierce says. "If you're not exposed to seeing people who look like you in the field, the thought never crosses your mind that it's an option."

From The Charlotte Observer
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