BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor High School geography teacher distinguished herself from a national pool of educators when the National Geographic Society chose her as one of six to be included in an eight-day expedition to the Arctic this summer.
Margaret Chernosky, who has taught geography at the school for 12 years, learned in February that she was selected from hundreds of applicants to be a 2011 Grosvenor Scholar.
The highly competitive scholarship, awarded by the National Geographic Society, is a prestigious national award given to K-12 educators who demonstrate passion, hard work and dedication to geography. The scholarship, created in 2007, was named after National Geographic’s former chairman, Gilbert Grosvenor, who retired in December 2010.
“This is a highly sought-after award and it’s a big deal,” said Susan Lahti, a coordinator at the Maine Geographic Alliance, where Chernosky volunteers as a teaching consultant. “This puts Margaret in a small pool of unique and distinguished personnel in her field.”
As one of six Grosvenor Scholars, Chernosky will travel with a group of National Geographic scientists, staff and photographers on an exploratory expedition to the Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Ocean. For eight days she will be asked to share her knowledge and teaching techniques with those participating in the expedition, she said.
“I’m so thrilled to be going on this trip,” she said. “I guess I said the right things on my application.”
Chernosky attributed her winning the scholarship to the emphasis she has placed on using technology in the classroom. She has become an expert in teaching Geographic Information Systems, which is an advanced form of software that allows its users to better understand the data, trends and changes that occur across geographical regions.
“She has gone above and beyond the duties of a volunteer and teacher,” Lahti said in offering her thoughts on why Chernosky was chosen for the expedition. “She is highly motivated and dedicated to delivering the technology her students need to succeed.”
According to Chernosky, the National Geographic Society is in the process of further integrating GIS into their expeditions in order to better understand the environments they visit.
National Geographic was founded in 1888. In addition to having a world-renowned magazine, it is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world.
Though she knows little about the expedition — other than the fact she will be expected to learn and share her own knowledge — Chernosky is looking forward to the experience.
For now, she is busy preparing for the trip. The Svalbad Islands are located in between Norway and the North Pole. They are considered the northernmost part of Norway, and sit inside the Arctic Circle. In addition to being a vast nationally protected wilderness, the islands are populated by more than 2,000 people, according to visitnorway.com.
Chernosky said she will leave for the trip on July 6 and return on July 17. Those participating in the expedition will stay on a large passenger boat as they make their way from island to island.
“I feel so fortunate to get this opportunity,” she said. “Without it, I would never be able to go that far north. I’m already doing some reading on the region so that I can absorb and learn from the minute I get there.”