2020 I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award Recipients

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and Kemin Industries joined together to honor teachers who are inspiring Iowa’s students to develop a passion for STEM subjects. The I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award Program is for teachers who are making a significant difference in the lives of students across the state by providing excellent curriculum, encouraging lifelong learning and inspiring a passion for STEM beyond the classroom and into the future.

The a panel of judges selected the recipients of the 2019 I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award, including:

Northwest STEM Region

Matt Hansen, industrial technology instructor at MMCRU High School, focuses on quality—both in his lessons and the outcomes for his students. After his first year of teaching, Matt went out into the community and started connecting with local professionals. That first outreach eventually led to an advisory board for his industrial technology courses led by more than 40 professionals from local and national companies who help shape the curriculum to include the most relevant possible lessons. Thanks to an intern course with the school, several students have able to connect with industry professionals and job opportunities by the time they graduate.

North Central STEM Region

Melissa Taft, a first grade teacher at Forest City Elementary School, is an advocate for strong STEM education at her school. Though her students are young, Melissa incorporates important tools for STEM education into her lessons. Student are given hands-on, real-life problems. They collaborate to solve them using technology like computers, digital tablets and basic tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and needle and thread. Melissa has created an interdisciplinary environment by pairing her first-grade students with fifth grade students for STEM lessons on problem solving, collaboration and communication. Younger students learn about STEM concepts from the older students, and the older students learn about creativity from the younger students.

Northeast STEM Region

Ann Arnold, a mathematics teacher at the Alternative Learning Center, uses hands-on curriculum and strategic partnerships to help create a curriculum that shows her students the value of her lessons in multiple ways. She uses art and home design to show students how geometry exists outside of the classroom. This interdisciplinary focus highlights the importance of STEM in her students’ lives. Ann teaches more than math and robotics to her students. Her curriculum is challenging, but achievable. In her robotics course, her students complete a project with increasingly difficult tasks, culminating in a competition. While they build their STEM skills, they also learn collaboration, communication and how to persevere.

Southwest STEM Region

Shelly Miller, a business and digital media teacher at CAM High School, helps students learn STEM skills through hands-on projects with community and business partners. They’ve built an app for the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, started working with a local radio station to livestream athletic events and learned digital skills with STEM professionals right in their classroom. Though her school is small, Shelly makes sure her kids have big opportunities. Equipped with a STEM BEST grant, she created opportunities for her students to create projects they care about. As she has worked with her class, Shelly has made sure to encourage students—especially the girls in her class—to try new STEM skills including working with drones, website design and app design.

South Central STEM Region

Ronda McCarthy, a middle school science teacher at St. Theresa Catholic School, attended a United States Naval Academy teacher training and was inspired to bring a SeaPerch program to her students. Using lessons from the program, students design, build and program underwater drones. They learn basic engineering, problem solving and other STEM skills. Ronda’s students were among the first in the state to experience the program—and six of her students made up the first team from Iowa to compete in the SeaPerch National Competition.Ronda seeks out professional development opportunities that benefit her students as well. Created with the help of business partners, the Maker Space at St. Theresa is giving students the chance to work with hands-on STEM experiences. Ronda helped make the space possible by applying for and earning a STEM BEST award, as well as working with other business partners.

Southeast STEM Region

Megan Bildner, a chemistry teacher at Pleasant Valley High School, has worked hard to show her students the STEM careers they could have in the future. She founded the Women in STEM Club at Pleasant Valley High School to further this goal. The club, which is open to all students regardless of gender, has connected students to women working in a variety of STEM professions through in-person visits and video conference sessions. Megan brings relevant current events into her chemistry classroom and allows students to explore possible solutions to present-day problems. The human connection allows her students to see the impact of STEM in real life, and creates immediate buy-in for the classroom.

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