PITTSBURG — A fourth grade teacher at George Nettels Elementary compared winning an educational trip this summer to Taiwan as hitting the lottery.

Whitney Rogers travels to Taiwan from July 21 to July 30 to better improve her understanding of science, technology, engineering and math in the classroom. Rogers applied for the $5,000 grant “on a whim.”

“I thought, ‘what are the odds,’” she said. “I was playing the lottery.”

Rogers found out on May 12 she would be travelling for an all-expense paid trip to Taiwan. Rogers filled out the grant in February and listed Taiwan for two reasons — having family there and the country’s higher success rate with STEM education than the U.S.

“I want to see what the difference is,” Rogers said.

Taiwan is tied for fourth in the world in math and science scores while U.S. falls at 28th, according to businessinsider.com.

Rogers’ cousin, Dan Basnett, is the director of curriculum and professional learning at Morrison Academy High School in Taichung, Taiwan. He has lived there for six years and has insight into Taiwan’s educational system.

Rogers plans to attend a robotics competition in Taiwan, and is hoping to fit visiting a public school into her trip. The $5,000 grant required Rogers to stick to the budget given during her application.

The application also required explaining how she would implement the knowledge gained.

Rogers and fourth grade teachers Steve Mahnken and Mandy Arck all began STEM lessons this year. Through a partnership with Pitsco Education, the teachers will be given “pods” to replace the antiquated desks next school year.

The pods are designed by Pittsburg State University’s Michael Neden and are more conducive to STEM learning.

In addition, the teachers find out in September if they win a $25,000 Pritchett Trust grant for STEM tools and equipment.

“I thought (going to Taiwan) would be a good way to mesh it all together to benefit my students and benefit my community,” Rogers said.

Rogers and 30 other teachers across the country received the $5,000 grant from The Rural School and Community Trust’s Global Teacher Fellowship.

The grant required applicants to be from an impoverished, rural area, Rogers said.

The grant also requires the 31 teachers to share the information they learned this summer at a meeting in September.

“This program enriches the personal and professional growth of rural teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities.” Executive Director Robert Mahaffey said in a press release.

— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at mstavola@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.