2 AHS Teachers Win Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowships
Two Avon High School teachers – Jared Emmons (now a two-time winner) and Micah Borcherding – won 2024 Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowships.
Scroll down to meet these outstanding educators, read about their plans for the grants they earned, and learn about the fellowship program. (Meet Avon's past winners.)
Ever since I was young, I had always been obsessed with roller coasters. Having grown up near Kings Island, I was able to ride roller coasters pretty much whenever I wanted to thanks to owning a season’s pass. In my spare time, I would draw roller coaster layouts on paper and give them weird names, and I basically became a recluse when Roller Coaster Tycoon came out as I would spend hours upon hours constructing unique rides and landscaping my theme parks. I have ridden over 80+ roller coasters across the country, and my proposal for the Lilly Grant was to see what European theme parks have to offer. After doing my research, I learned that there are many incredible roller coasters across the pond that I would love to try out. My main pitch for the grant was to find rejuvenation through roller coasters and to reconnect with my younger self to feel the excitement of riding a roller coaster again for the first time — this time in Europe!
January 26 was, coincidentally, a roller coaster of emotions for me. We knew that the announcement would be released that day, so all morning I was a bundle of nerves and nausea (my resting heartrate was around 115), and I was constantly checking my email to see what would show up. It finally arrived at the beginning of sixth period, but I wasn’t sure of its contents (cut to me at my desk, sweating, preparing myself for the worst). Thankfully, the first word was ‘congratulations’, and that’s really all I needed to see. My students celebrated with me when I relayed the news to them, and it was a huge relief to know that all the time I had spent researching and writing the proposal was worth it. Now that I have started planning my trip, it looks like I will potentially ride over 118 roller coasters across 15 theme parks scattered throughout Spain, France, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Poland, and I anticipate the coaster pilgrimage to take 7 to 8 weeks to complete. The first three weeks are already booked, and I am very excited to plan the rest!
I have wanted to learn astrophotography for a long time but have never had the time nor resources. I also wanted to take my family out west to experience a part of the country they have never seen, especially at night away from light pollution. Over the summer I realized the Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship could provide me with the means and ability to accomplish both of these goals in a unique project. I spent nearly two months researching how best to do astrophotography, what I would need for it, and planned a trip with my family to practice what I learn. There are many people who assisted me on this journey, without whom this would not be possible, including, but certainly not limited to: Zach Rohrbach, Dr. Aaron Willis, Jen Eckert, and Matthias Schmitt.
I submitted my proposal in September of 2023 and had to wait until January 26, 2024, to hear that it was accepted. Upon receiving notification from the Lilly Endowment, I was ecstatic! The true joy, however, came from sharing the good news with my kids. They and my wife were heavily involved in the whole process and it was a common goal shared among us. Beginning this adventure is thrilling! I get to learn a new skill in astrophotography that I have always wanted to learn, and I get to practice it on an epic trip I will share with my family. Things could not be better!
As one of the Lilly Endowment's longest standing programs, the Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program exists as a way to help Indiana elementary and secondary educators renew and sustain their commitment to teaching.