Toby Johnson, a student from Newcastle High School, was named the winner of the annual WYTeach contest that was developed by the University of Wyoming.
The competition allows high school students interested in becoming teachers to put their teaching abilities to the test. The top three participants each were awarded a scholarship to UW or a Wyoming community college.
Johnson received a $500 scholarship for his lesson, “Crabby Cancer,” which was taught to a virtual class of avatars. Chloe Palmer, from Wheatland High School, earned second place and a $300 scholarship for her lesson, “From Grass to Steak: The Digestive System of a Cow.” Sonja Post, from Shoshoni High School, took third place for her lesson, “Technology Heroes,” which earned her a $200 scholarship.
The WYTeach contest originated to help combat the teacher shortage that is being felt in Wyoming and across the country. Lindsey Freeman, a UW assistant lecturer of teacher education, and Colby Gull, managing director of the UW Trustees Education Initiative (TEI), worked together to develop two contests for both high school and college students.
Although there are other teaching competitions, the contest at UW stands out for providing a more realistic teaching experience. The contest uses innovative virtual reality (VR) simulation technology created by Mursion that allows high school students to experience what it is like to be a teacher.
“We have to start purposefully recruiting to get the very best people into classrooms, and WYTeach is one way to get high school students excited about the field. With this contest, we can help students experience some of the great things about teaching,” Gull says. “It is a great feeling when we see them ‘get it’ while using Mursion. Those are the students we hope to enroll in our teacher preparation programs at UW.”
The contest was made possible through a collaboration with Mursion, which donated the cost of running the VR simulations for the competition and supplied funds to purchase prizes for participants.
The John P. Ellbogen Foundation, the UW Foundation and the UW College of Education all contributed the scholarship money that was awarded to the top three contestants. TEI has supported the development and execution of the contest since it was first conceived by Freeman. Faculty from the UW College of Education, Laramie County Community College and Western Wyoming Community College also have provided support for the contest.
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