Degrees and Certifications:
BS Biology/Science Education: Gannon University Erie, PA 1986 MS Science Education: NCSU 2013 National Board Certified 2001, Renewed 2011
Over the past 20 years the industries that drive North Carolina's economy have changed. Good-paying low-skill jobs are being replaced by science based high-skilled jobs. Jobs requiring more training and education than high schools currently provide. This shift has further alienated students from rural and underserved communities. To ensure the continued economic growth of our state, and the participation of talent from all regions, new educational approaches must be developed and embraced to prepare high school graduates for these high-skill jobs.
The Bertie Early College High School (BECHS), located in Windsor, NC, was established in 2008 through a partnership from North Carolina New Schools, North Carolina State University, and Martin Community College. BECHS is a biotechnology and agriscience focused high school designed to provide students in this tier one community training in the skills for the 21st century. At BECHS, students can earn an Associate in Arts Diploma, Associate in Arts Degree, or two years of college credit that can be transferred to a four-year college or university.
Through a partnership with Dr. Matt Koci, Associate Professor at NC State, and support from the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Wynne Innovation Fund and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund's Student Science Enrichment Program, the students at BECHS will learn how to clone, express, purify and validate recombinant proteins to be used in Dr. Koci's research laboratoy. The goal of this project is to establish a mini-biotech company, Falcon Biomanufacturing, in their biotechnology classroom.
As part of this program the BECHS biotechnology students will come to NC State for an intensive 5 days short course on biotechnology and protein expression. While at NC State the students will be introduced to the scientific tools and techniques that will be the core of their biotech company. The students will also get the chance to visit biotech companies in the RTP area, interact with scientists, and learn about the different industries that use biotechnology.
BECHS has a small student body, served by a small group of the best teachers in the eastern North Carolina. At the core of this project is Mr. Bruce Boller. Mr. Boller has been teaching high school science for 32 years, 30 of which have been in Bertie County and is the instructor for Biotechnology I, II, III and IV. Mr. Boller is a former Kenan Fellow, former Syngenta Summer Fellow, and the 2014 recipient of the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center Outstanding 9-16 Educator Award.
At the end of this process we expect to have a student directed, sustainable model for authentic biotechnology education at the high school and early college level that can then be replicated in other tier 1 communities across NC and the nation. This will ensure everyone in the program can participate in STEM careers and compete for the high-skilled jobs of the 21st century regardless of where they live. Furthermore, society benefits by having the most diverse talent pool possible.