For the last nine years, Dos Pueblos High School teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer has been changing the lives of students — especially those at the renowned Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy he leads. Earlier this month, he received news that will change his.
Late Monday, the MacArthur Foundation announced that Abo-Shaeer, 38, has been named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow, one of 23 recipients of a $500,000 stipend from the foundation. The award will be paid out in quarterly installments over a five-year period — with no strings attached.
“Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight and potential,” the MacArthur Foundation said in a statement.
“The purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.”
Abo-Shaeer said he was stunned to receive the phone call almost two weeks ago informing him of the fellowship.
“It all seemed so surreal, especially because I couldn’t talk about it to anyone for such a long period of time,” he said in a statement issued by the engineering academy.
“I still can’t believe it. I feel so fortunate and very humbled.”
Abo-Shaeer said he had no idea he was being considered for the fellowship. In fact, there’s no way to even apply. The MacArthur Foundation only considers nominations from a “constantly changing pool of invited external nominators.” In lay terms, that means applications and unsolicited nominations are not accepted.
Abo-Shaeer has been a force on the Dos Pueblos High campus since his arrival in 2001 after a short career as a research and development mechanical engineer. The physics and engineering teacher has developed courses around project-based learning, including a robotics class that has earned worldwide recognition for its annual — and successful — participation in the international FIRST Robotics Competition. His outreach efforts have yielded 50 percent female student enrollment in his program, an unusually high accomplishment in the field of engineering.
In 2007, Abo-Shaeer earned a $3 million California matching grant to create a new facility at Dos Pueblos High, 7266 Alameda Ave. Working with a small group of mostly parent volunteers, he established the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation to manage the $3 million capital campaign to match the state grant and to raise additional program funding.
Construction began on the 12,000-square-foot Elings Center for Engineering Education in July and the facility is expected to be completed next summer. The new facility will enable the academy to triple its enrollment and significantly broaden the educational opportunities available to students.