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 Iowa 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 2023 Iowa STEM Teacher Award, including:
Northwest STEM Region
Shane Peterson, 8-12 Industrial Technology Instructor at West Lyon Community School District in Inwood, encourages students to think creatively, goes above and beyond for the industrial technology program, and someone who has grown his students’ confidence in their futures. His principal noted that in addition to acquiring new technology, encouraging more female students to take interest in industrial technology, and bringing in industry speakers to his classroom, he has received over $200,000 in grants for his classroom. Peterson finds opportunities for his curriculum to connect with the community and STEM-focused business partners.
North Central STEM Region
Brittany Zimpfer, K-5 STEAM Instructor at Rock Run Elementary School in Iowa Falls, collaborates with general education teachers throughout her school to learn what is being taught and how she can connect it to her classroom. In creating this collaborative curriculum, Zimpfer focuses on incorporating problem-solving, perseverance, and fun at a developmentally appropriate level. Throughout all her courses, Zimpfer stresses the importance of learning to fail well. She celebrates classroom failures and recognizes when students take big risks and big ideas that fail, to help inspire courage and creativity. Zimpfer connects a STEM career to every unit she teaches to give her students more examples of what STEM careers can look like, focusing on sharing photos and videos of diverse backgrounds so students can see someone like themselves achieving their goals, and can more easily picture themselves achieving their personal dreams.
Northeast STEM Region
Greg Moklestad, 9-12 Computer Science and Engineering Instructor at Dubuque Senior High School, reimagined the school’s engineering program and brought new life to the subject, as seen by increased enrollment in his classes and the need for additional courses to meet interest levels. He recognizes that success in the 21st century revolves around a healthy STEM education and focuses on creating strong relationships with his students and providing access to real-world experiences to increase awareness of STEM opportunities. Molkestad created a partnership with the John Deere Dubuque Works Facility where students have the opportunity to work on intern level engineering projects with John Deere engineer mentors. His work on this trail-blazing program will not only benefit students at his school, but also allows for other schools to partner with John Deere using structures similar to what he set up.
Southwest STEM Region
Maggie Arnold, communication and service technology teacher at Creston Community High School, has made remarkable efforts in implementing STEM education into her classroom through technology, projects and community service. She has established the school’s CAST program as a true model for the Iowa Authentic Learning Network—creating two businesses that operate out of her classroom and continue to flourish. She has built relationships with local businesses and community leaders to create learning opportunities that help students see the real-world value beyond the walls of the classroom. She encourages her students while also empowering them to take ownership of their projects.
South Central STEM Region
Jan Phifer, early childhood/early childhood special education teacher at Fairview Elementary in Grinnell, implements STEM education into her classroom’s daily routines and activities. She energizes and encourages other preK teachers to embrace STEM and sees the benefit of STEM education for developing a child’s early literacy skills. Phifer continually collaborates with STEM stakeholders to increase the depth and breadth of her knowledge to support STEM education within her classroom. Her involvement with the STEM Scale-Up Program led to her most recent initiative, partnering with the school’s instructional coach and math interventionist to provide an afterschool opportunity for K-2 students in the district. Phifer brings STEM opportunities into the classroom that can be modified to meet the needs of a diverse background of learning needs and developmental abilities. She also serves as a mentor for first- and second-year teachers in the district and continually advocates for STEM education.
Southeast STEM Region
Jessica Howard, business teacher at Lone Tree Community Schools, provides collaborative learning for her students by partnering with STEM stakeholders and community members to bring thoughtful and entertaining STEM opportunities into the classroom. She has participated in the STEM Teacher Externships Program multiple years in a row and has used that experience to enrich her students’ learning experiences and showcase what they need to be successful in the future. STEM subject areas and STEM careers are major factors for Howard when designing projects and curriculum for her students. Through her externship experiences, she is able to connect her students with businesses that provide students with career-linked learning opportunities that help them gain the necessary skills for the future workforce.