By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
Christopher Fox, a recent University of Mississippi alumnus embarking upon a teaching career at Oxford High School, has been selected for inclusion in a prestigious teacher fellows program.
Fox, who earned his bachelor’s degree and doctoral in chemistry from UM, is among 31 teachers nationwide chosen by the Knowles Teacher Initiative for its 2022 cohort of teaching fellows. The initiative supports a national network of mathematics and science teachers who are collaborative, innovative leaders improving education for all students.
“I was honored to have been chosen to be a part of the 2022 cohort,” said Fox, a second-year teacher at Oxford High School. “I am not a traditional teacher, having been formally trained as a research scientist, and so when I was selected to be among the 31 teachers, it was definitely a confirmation to me as an educator.”
Findings from the Pascagoula native’s doctoral research were published in Biomacromolecules, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
“I chose to continue my education at UM because I wanted to remain relatively close to family,” Fox said. “I also wanted to attend an institution that would prepare me the most for my next stage in life.”
As a graduate researcher, Fox worked with many Ole Miss freshmen while functioning as a teaching assistant for general chemistry labs as well as a tutor for general chemistry courses. Working with undergraduate students, Fox quickly discovered a passion for teaching and found it rewarding and fulfilling.
“While earning my doctorate, I decided to earn my teaching license via an alternate route program in order to teach on a secondary level,” he said.
Fox finds the interpersonal relationships and bonds formed with students the most rewarding aspect of teaching.
“From my experience, I am convinced that this is what forms the fertile ground for education and learning to prosper in young learners,” he said. “I planned to utilize every opportunity offered by the fellowship to collaborate and network with teachers across the nation.
“My desire is to learn from this community of educators to perfect my understanding of pedagogy.”
The stipend offered by the fellowship allows for Fox to explore new educational resources and develop labs that help provide practical experience for the students.
Susan Pedigo, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who served as Fox’s research adviser, said she is not surprised by his achievement.
“I have immense respect for his intellect, his intrinsic sense for the scientific method, his empathy for the human condition, his absolute moral clarity and his thoughtful regard of each person as an individual,” Pedigo said. “Chris could do anything. There are no limits to his abilities or options.
“Teaching is not a fallback choice; it is his first choice.”
The Knowles Teaching Fellowship is an intensive and cohesive, five-year program that supports early-career, high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise and leadership from the classroom. Through the program, fellows have access to grants for expenses associated with purchasing classroom materials, engaging in professional development and spearheading leadership activities that have an impact beyond their own classrooms.
Fellows also can get stipends, mentoring and coaching from experienced teachers and teacher educators, and membership in a nationwide community of nearly 450 teachers who are committed to improving education.