What the I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award Brings to a Classroom

Q&A with Ann Gritzner


Earlier this year, the 2019 I.O.W.A STEM Teacher Award recipients were announced. These six outstanding educators represent different parts of the state, but they all share an infectious passion for teaching STEM. Their work inspires their students to explore science, technology, engineering and math all while preparing them for some of the most in-demand jobs in Iowa’s future workforce. 

Ann Gritnzer, science teacher and Project Based Learning leader at Central Community School District in Elkader, was one of the six teachers recognized in 2019. With the award comes $1,500 for each teacher’s classroom, along with another $1,500 for personal use. What can that award do for a classroom? Turns out, quite a lot. 

What was the first thing you bought for your classroom with your award?

In October, I moved into a brand-new, remodeled classroom. Because of that, my classroom needs were small, but this gives my students a chance to look at our wish list instead. There have been several improvements suggested for our compost project, like magnetic silverware catch for the compost collection and condiment pumps to reduce plastic waste. Other students are looking into a classroom beehive.

We did spend a little money on rebar,a steel reinforcing rod in concrete and lumber to pour a concrete pad for our compost pile. The concrete was covered by a S.W.A.P. Grant from the Iowa DNR, but we needed some additional materials not covered in the grant.

The best is yet to come! 

What impact do you feel like this award will have on your classroom and students?

As a teacher, it’s always amazing to be recognized for what we do every day. To be nominated by a parent and to have so many former students and community members come support me was very gratifying.  

I think this award increased my excitement for teaching and hopefully, students will feed off my increased energy. I think it has also changed the perception of STEM education in my district. I think we will see an increase in resources for STEM education from both schools and community.

What advice do you have for teachers who are nominated and will be applying for the teacher award this year?

The application process is worth the effort. Not only in the reflection on your teaching experience but also just the honor of knowing someone sees what you pour your heart and soul into every day. Winning this award is a career-altering experience and you should not miss the opportunity! 


Do you know a teacher like Ann? 

Nominate him or her today for the 2020 I.O.W.A STEM Teacher Award presented by Kemin Industries.This award recognizes one teacher from each of the STEM regions across Iowa for their dedication to STEM. Their efforts are helping increase interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math across the state and preparing our students for the future workforce.


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