2021 Iowa 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

Robbie Cundy, mathematics teacher at Sioux Center High School, was selected for his dedication to providing engaging, hands-on activities that help students better understand STEM concepts. As an educator, his ultimate goal is to inspire students. To reach that goal, he creates lessons designed to be enriching for students, incorporating interactive lessons with other important STEM skills like problem solving and collaboration. Cundy also uses experience with professional development and local partners to create a more engaging curriculum. After completing his most recent Iowa STEM Teacher Externship with Interstates, he connected his statistics students with the analytics team to learn about data, collaboration and problem solving.

North Central STEM Region

Devan Walker, science teacher at Southeast Valley High School, was selected for her efforts to create accessible and engaging content for students—in any subject she teaches. In 2017, she was one of 18 teachers selected to attend the Iowa Space Grant Consortium—resulting in an interactive physics experiment brought back to her classroom. Walker works hard to make sure students understand how STEM concepts will serve them in life. She also helps students explore STEM topics, allowing learners to understand scientific data and work on critical thinking. 

Northeast STEM Region

Kenton Swartley, community partnerships & STEM facilitator at Cedar Falls Schools, was recognized for his commitment for advancing STEM education both in his classroom and across the state. For more than 20 years in Cedar Falls Schools, he has brought innovative lessons that connect students to real-world experiences. From 1998 to 2016, Swartley taught physics at Cedar Falls High School, incorporating hands-on projects and adapting them over time to incorporate concepts that tie together subjects and connect learning to the world outside the classroom. In his current role as community partnerships & STEM facilitator, Swartley creates and promotes opportunities for students to interact with STEM professionals, explore STEM concepts and work with local partners.

Southwest STEM Region

Nathan Van Zante, eighth grade science teacher at Lewis Central Middle School, makes sure his students gain perspective on what it’s like to be a STEM professional in the field. He has completed three Iowa STEM Teacher Externships, offered through the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. He maintains the connections he made through Externships and uses them to help students gain insight and experience. The work in Van Zante’s classroom centers on hands-on experimentation to explore and solve problems. Students create their own procedures to solve real-world STEM problems—guided by Van Zante and group discussions—and take ownership of their learning.

South Central STEM Region

Rebecca Wilson, preschool teacher at Van Meter Elementary School, was recognized for the big STEM education opportunities she provides to little learners. In Wilson’s classroom, students are encouraged to be curious, explore and ask questions. She focuses on helping children develop deep thinking. To help expose students to all the possibilities of STEM, Wilson also includes visits from a variety of professionals. As an important foundation for the rest of their academic careers, Wilson takes care to help students utilize the scientific process of investigation from the very beginning.

Southeast STEM Region

Sheryl Kennedy, talented, gifted and reading teacher at Camanche Elementary School, has taught at Camanche Elementary School for more than 17 years. During that time, she has carefully connected classroom work to the real world. Students explore STEM concepts through hands-on learning and interactive activities. To help students better understand STEM careers, Kennedy finds professionals in a range of industries to present to her classes. Outside of the classroom, Kennedy works to provide access to STEM for learners, no matter what. During the summer, she hosts free STEM camps with transportation so any interested student can attend.

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