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Father, Daughter With Passion for STEM Education Will Share Graduation Day

Allyson and Jason Sarnowski

When Jason Sarnowski ’22MED, a nuclear engineering technician at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, was looking into earning his master’s degree, he initially considered applying to an online MBA program. But the more he thought about it, the less appealing it sounded. Especially when his daughter, Allyson Sarnowski ’22, was earning her bachelor’s degree in middle school science education with an English as a second language add-on licensure at the NC State College of Education. 

In the Navy, Jason Sarnowski worked on nuclear submarines before retiring as a senior chief nuclear electricians mate after 20 years of service. His passion for all things STEM was a constant in the Sarnowski household when Allyson was growing up. 

“He literally has a 3D printer behind him in his office,” Allyson Sarnowski said. “So just having that, that’s our normal.”

So when her dad began to consider a Master of Education in STEM instead of an MBA, she told him, “Dad, you just need to go ahead. You need to do this.”

Jason Sarnowski decided his daughter was right. He applied and was accepted into the NC State College of Education’s Master of Education in STEM Education program with a concentration in Engineering and Technology Education

“I wanted to be an example for my children to always want to learn something, so when I went looking for my master’s degree, and I ended up picking education, my daughter didn’t really know that she was really the inspiration for me,” he said.

Now, in May, both Sarnowskis will graduate from the NC State College of Education with their respective degrees. 

“It’s going to be cool,” Allyson Sarnowski said. 

While they are earning separate degrees, they have both had the opportunity to gain knowledge, experience and a sense of community through their time in the College of Education. 

For Allyson Sarnowski, that occurred as a Teaching Fellow and as a member of Students Advocating for Youth (SAY) Village, a living and learning community that connects NC State students with underserved K-12 students for after-school mentoring and where she met a number of her friends.

“Living in the same dorm and having the same interests with these people, I still talk to them today,” Allyson Sarnowski said. “They’re people that I would talk to in 10 years.”

For Jason Sarnowski, it happened through his interactions with his classmates, either virtually or, before the pandemic, in-person.

“[Without this program] I never would have met such a diverse group of professors or students working in teams to reach a common goal, with each person respecting each other’s values and input,” he said. “It was nice to see a creative side I didn’t know I had in me, and others in the group helped bring that out.”

While Allyson attended classes in person and Jason completed his classes online from their home in Currituck County, they would stay in touch about what was going on at NC State and talk about what they were learning in their classes. 

“Even though I didn’t pick technology education, I still learn about it every time I come home,” Allyson Sarnowski said. “Maybe I should get a second degree in it, just to have it. We learn stuff from each other every day.”

“We have so much in common now, and when we talk about things, we’re excited about them,” Jason Sarnowski said. 

Allyson Sarnowski is also excited for her next step, as a classroom teacher. She said gaining classroom experience early in her time at NC State, through Teaching Fellows and SAY Village, as well as being able to go on the We Teach for NC Spring Break Trip in eastern North Carolina, prepared her well when looking for her first job.

“It showed me where I actually wanted to be in school and what I wanted to look for in a school,” Allyson Sarnowski said. “That was a big thing for me, just getting in a classroom early, so I actually felt prepared to apply and interview for a job before I graduated, to actually feel like, ‘This is what I want to do, and this is where I want to be.'”

Where she wants to be is back in eastern North Carolina, where she will be a science teacher at the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies, a public charter school in Elizabeth City. She has already had an opportunity to substitute teach at the school and is planning to launch a Science Olympiad there.

Jason Sarnowski, who was introduced to a variety of new technologies and gained an in-depth knowledge of grant-writing through his program, said he hopes to take what he learned and launch a First Robotics or First Lego League program in Currituck County, as part of an effort to bring STEM experiences to the area. 

He’s also looking forward to seeing what his daughter does next.

“I just see the passion that education brings to her, and I’m hoping that that passion continues because I’m just excited about that too,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what she does in school and how she helps young learners become brilliant people.”

As Allyson Sarnowski prepares to teach, she’s already thinking about how she can inspire her students the same way she and her father have inspired each other.

“He’s always trying to set an example for us and being a teacher, that’s kind of what you’re doing in your own classroom,” she said. “I think I’ve learned that from him.”

But first, they’re both looking forward to their upcoming graduation.