2019-2020 STEM Educator of the Year Nominations

This STEM Educator is  AWESOME because:

Alexandra Zeldenrust – Spartanburg 6

Very talented. Highly motivated and motivating. Super empathetic. Inclusive. Innovative. Intelligent. Alexandra represents the ideal science teacher for the modern classroom.

Beth Leavitt – Greenville

Ms. Leavitt promotes active learning and successfully encourages students to think imaginatively, critically, and independently She demonstrates instructional techniques that are appropriate and effective. She interacts enthusiastically and effectively with students beyond the classroom to promote learning. Ultimately she is engaging,has an inspiring presence  that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

Jocelyn Gordon – Rock Hill

Mrs. Gordon makes sure that every lesson is hands on. If we dont understand something then she takes the time out of her day to work with us individually. We are always learning something new in a different way to keep us active and engaged in class. Because of Mrs.Gordon’s teaching methods I will be better prepared for the future.

Dale Jacobs – Richland 1

The ability to connect state standards to real life situations allowing students to think outside of the box.

Brenda Johnson – Sumter

Mrs. Johnson has a true love for STEM. Her passion for learning is infectious. Every student wants to be in Mrs. Johnson’s class. She is constantly encouraging her students to inquire, explore, imagine, collaborate, and critically think. She models lifelong learning by leading professional development, completing her Master’s degree with a focus in STEM education, and focuses on progress over perfection. She has created STEM community partnerships in our school, takes our students to CAMP BOB Cooper where they explore STEM concepts, leads our STEM after school program that exposes underrepresented populations to STEM learning, and is a key member of our STEM accreditation team. Because of her, we are a STEM school not a school that does STEM. Mrs. Johnson creates a classroom environment that fosters innovation, creativity, and a STEM mindset. It has been an honor to learn and grow from her! 

Amanda Gyemant – Lancaster

She uses multiple STEAM procedures in her classroom to teach students with learning disabilities. She incorporates creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking in lessons. She uses video games as themes for lessons in order to increase engagement. She teaches science and uses multiple science experiments to teach the lessons . In math we do a lot of hands on and interactive lessons and we incorporate a variety of technology. We use story jumper, google classroom, tinkercad, and much more.

Susan Gardner – Lancaster

She is always willing to work with anyone and help anyone out. She does STEAM in her art classroom, pushes in to general education classes to so STEAM, she even has a STEAM class for our 21st Century Students.

Kristy Horton – Lancaster

She is the the math enrichment teacher and she does STEAM lessons in her classroom with all grade levels K-5. The students love it. She is helping and will push into classrooms as well.

Michelle Stroud – Lancaster

Mrs. Stroud incorporates STEM each day in her classroom.

Anthony Colagross – Lancaster

Anthony is constantly challenging himself and his students to utilize the 4 C’s through cutting edge technology that truly engages a student’s mind.

Shannon Griffin – Sumter

Mrs. Griffin teaches mathematics through hands on project based learning and personalized pathway STEM experiences. She is instrumental in planning school wide STEM opportunities for all students. She has also developed a partnership with a local college for teachers and students to work with their mathematic professors as well as an additional partnership with our district Career and Technology Center to bring a hands on fraction unit through cooking activities with their culinary art program.

Richard L Phillips Jr – Sumter

Mr.Phillips is always opening the doors for students to have open access to STEM opportunities before and after school.

Beth Leavitt – Greenville

I have known her for two years and she was the most memorable and impactful teacher I’ve had. My first introduction was prior to the first day of school. At the Welcome Back festival, she was not in her classroom but instead I found cardboard cutout of an astronaut where she taped her face inside in her place. The caption bubble told everyone that she was at the robotics table downstairs. There I met Ms. Leavitt, a passionate and sometime crazed teacher, very into all things STEM. She was my teacher of Honors Physics and AP Physics. She never wavered on the rigor of the course and often pushed students further beyond. She was never the one who sugar coats the difficulty of the field, but she never left students to drown in the course work, often going out of her way to provide tutoring time. She was a pushing force for me to continue studying physics and even persuaded me to join robotics. Despite the grinding demand of the subject, the lens that she presented reality through physics made me fond of it. When I joined her FIRST Robotics team, her leadership helped me to be a part of a team, to be confident in my skills and limits, but also to not let an opportunity go wasted. I took her advice, attended all workshops, volunteer events, and now I am a leader on the team. Her push to join robotics opened doors for me to understand what I’m capable of. The opportunities she provided allowed me to study Solidworks, the 3D design program used in most industry today. I learned speak to the public whether it is little girl scouts, my peers, or industry professionals. She pulled me out of my shell and gave me a focus that I didn’t have before. She’s been  a STEM advocate for over 21 years; and even though I’ve only known her as my teacher, I believe that  she should be the next SC STEM Educator of the Year.

Summer Lane – Newberry

Miss Lane is a fantastic science teacher. She has a 3D printer and lots of science manipulatives the engage students. She is a kind and caring teacher that wants the best for her students.

Ceceila Kelly – Newberry

Mrs. Kelly goes above and beyond not only for her students, but for educators wanting to be train in STEM. She offers various classes for those students who start with her in the 6th grade and those who start later in their middle level career. Mrs. Kelly travels around the country to support educators and STEM. She never ceases to have a helping hand or lack efforts in ensuring all student’s needs are met. She even supports teachers within her own school building with incorporating STEM and literacy into the classroom. She is the Related Arts lead teacher and ensures those teachers needs are met by being an advocate and communicator with administration.

Amy Chua – Sumter

Mrs. Chua plans and implements instruction that is engaging, integrative, and project-based. Her teaching is student-driven and is based on a strong foundation of STEM and “the 5 C’s”- Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Community. Students direct their learning, making real-world connections, and they benefit from having frequent choices in their own learning process. Students also are taught to be reflective practitioners and engage in continuous self-reflection. Additionally, each week, Mrs. Chua and her students invite a community member in to visit the classroom to share information about his/her STEM-based career. Mrs. Chua teaches and emphasizes the Engineering Design Process in her classroom, and students engage in this process often in order to create products they are proud of. Most importantly, Mrs. Chua understands that “STEM Education” is not about doing “STEM things”; but, rather, STEM Education is a change in the way of thinking that has dominated American classrooms for centuries. It’s not a passing craze, and it’s not about toothpicks and marshmallows. In her words, it’s education that gives students a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, a sense of worth- and prepares them for the world they will one day lead! Mrs. Chua can be found on Twitter @AmyChuaADE !

Jennifer Frick – Newberry

She incorporates real life applications to her classes.

Johnie Cape – Anderson 3

She has a passion for technology and shares that with her students. She does LEGO First Robotics and other fantastic lessons. She is a truly awesome teacher!

Amy Moyer – Greenville

Her students say so!!!High expectations, great results as choral director at Wade Hampton

J. Sullivan Johnston – Charleston

Real dedication to the craft and always working to make high level math accessible to students.

John G Williams – Beaufort

Encouraged both my sons to further their education in Technology which they love after HS.

Cherlyn Anderson – Lexington 3

Mrs. Anderson incorporates Standard Engineering Practices in every content unit she teaches.  She personalizes learning for her students in order for them to truly DO science, not just read about it.  Mrs. Anderson provides opportunities for students to think deeply about science and also provides opportunities for the students to apply their knowledge.  Students practice reflection and revisiting what worked and what didn’t work in their engineering practices.  Mrs. Anderson invests her own time and money in providing her students with experiences to make science relevant to them.    

Patrick Martin – Lexington 1

Mr. Martin works diligently to get students excited about STEM topics and careers. He designs very engaging, high quality projects for students.

Michele Mauney – Richland 2

Ms. Mauney always makes learning fun and engaging with hands-on/minds-on activities. She is constantly seeking opportunities for her students and has high expectations for their learning. She has an enthusiasm for learning about all things STEM and that enthusiasm is contagious. I learn something new EVERY TIME  I am in her classroom. She works with all students in our school grades K-5th grade!

Lakevia Mills – Charleston

Mrs. Mills creates a classroom environment that excites the students and provides them with hands on learning. In her forensic class her students are examining crime scene evidence, writing up lab findings, and collaborating with each other to question, discuss, and arrive at a conclusion of how the victim died and who’s responsible for their death.

Vicki Carter – Florence 1

Vicki has utilized technology in a variety of ways to engage all math students for decades. Her passion for math understanding through the use of technology  drives her instruction and personal growth as an educator. In addition to being a classroom teacher, Vicki is a national instructor for Texas Instruments. She conducted workshops in our district to help teachers reach all students through the use of graphing calculators and other devices such as temperature probes, motion detectors, the TI Navigator, and the TI Rover. Vicki has purchased items for her classroom using her own money such as 3D pens to help spark students’ interest in coding. With over 40 years of classroom experience, she continues to look for ways to incorporate technology into her classroom. I am a better teacher because of her guidance and leadership. Vicki is an awesome STEM teacher and is most deserving of the STEM Educator of the year award.

Chris Beyerle – Greenville

Chris has a knack for pushing his students out of their comfort zone and challenges them to think, design, and create awesomeness! His excitement for student achievement and pride in their accomplishments are evident daily.

John Michael Hammond – Laurens 56

Mr. Hammond is the cornerstone behind our Project Lead The Way efforts. He challenges students to think, to plan, to try, to fail, and to try again. He embraces experiential, real world learning in a crucible of inquiry and analysis. Mr. Hammond promotes a “growth” mindset and facilitates resiliency, reflection, and refinement.

Alvin Fersner – Calhoun

Mr. Fersner has been an innovative and influential Project Lead The Way Teacher for over 10 years. What makes him an awesome STEM teacher is his ability to make learning relevant and meaningful for his students through connecting them to their true passions and skills they never knew they had. Mr. Fersner teaches four PLTW course, and yet goes beyond the call of duty for is students through his established VEX Robotics Team and Trebuchet Teams. These opportunities allow his students the chance to travel, compete, network and get experiences they otherwise may not. Mr. Fersner also has encouraged and provided opportunities for his students to learn, practice, and acquire the skills and characteristics listed on the Profile of the SC Graduate through his class STEM challenges and initiatives. He also encourages students to pursue their own passion projects and hobbies through a design process format. Many of Mr. Fersner’s students have accredited his class for inspiring them to purse engineering degrees in colleges and obtain careers at places like Google, Honeywell, and Lockheed Martin, just to name a few. Working in a rural, mostly African American community, Mr. Fersner’s work and connection with his students has helped to change the trajectory of their lives in more ways than one through his ability to challenge them to think bigger and strive for greatness. I believe that Mr. Fersner is the perfect educator to receive the honor of becoming the SC STEM Teacher of the Year.

Danielle Last – Sumter

Danielle does daily lessons that include STEM activities. She does robotics club for girls and boys. She does compost gardens, Skype presentations, and anything else that helps her students learn.

Michelle Traynum – Anderson 5

Michelle is Homeland Park’ s awesome STEM teacher. She teaches engaging, inspiring, fun lessons that captivates not only her students but parents as well. Michelle also goes above and beyond to create a positive learning environment in her classroom. As a result of this, her students are always willing to go the extra mile for her. Additionally, when it comes to funding her many lessons, she continuously thinks outside the box of ways to gain funds for them. Michelle’s  enthusiasm and love for teaching makes her a deserving candidate for SC STEM Educator of the year.

Clifton Roberts – Lexington 1

Mr. Roberts creates an environment where students are engaged in work that is meaningful, exciting, and challenging so that achievement and learning flourish. In his classroom, students can fulfill their highest aspirations and achieve more than they think possible, becoming active contributors to a better world through student-centered learning and discovery. Mr. Roberts strives to give ALL students a voice, and especially works hard with female and minority students to break down stereotypes related to STEM. For example, he started an all-girls robotics team, in addition to the regular robotics team, when he discovered that several girls wanted to participate in robotics, but did not feel comfortable being the minority. That girls team went to nationals in 2019! Mr. Roberts also understands that his students, when finished with their academic career, will not be solely judged on basic skills tests, but rather on their quality of character and quality of work. Therefore, throughout his STEM curriculum, he weaves a common thread of character (such as leadership, tenacity, communication, collaboration, and integrity) and high quality work.

Sonya Fanning – Florence 1

Engaging all students in STEM. Took it upon herself to become STEM Certified so she could be a better teacher. I have observed students working on a project and when they improved upon it (part of project), they came to find me to share. They were so excited and proud of their work. She host Parent Walk Throughs, where students show off their work to parents during school day. She has hosted “Diced” after school competition to let students explore their culinary skills. She even got local celebrities to judge the contest.

Tanya Dean – Anderson 2

Mrs. Dean has moved from Science teacher to the Gateway to Technology teacher at our school.  She has invested her own time with her own initiative to expanding the program by taking the coursework to teach a variety of subjects.  She is an excellent relationship builder with our students and creates exciting and meaningful lessons that incorporate STEM education throughout.  Her passion for STEM and teaching is contagious with our students and many move on to take courses at our Career and Technology center in preparation for a career in a STEM field.  She is an excellent example of what STEM education is all about and is deserving of recognition. 

Lori Holbrook – Charleston

Mrs. Holbrook teaches science and engineering to all of our students, from ages 3 and 4 in our CD classes through 5th grade. We are a Title I school where almost all of our students come from poverty.  We are 99% African American and the majority of our students would be considered at risk.  The science lab, where Mrs. Holbrook teaches, has quickly become the favorite spot for our students where learning is not only instilled, but inspired.   She creates an atmosphere where students are excited to learn through creative science and engineering activities.  She often has hands on activities where students are actually doing the creating and exploring.  As example was on Halloween she did a number of activities with dry ice to teach the students about carbon dioxide, gases and solids.  She sets up partnerships with outside professionals to enrich lessons.  She has doctors from MUSC come to work with all 4th grade classes where they get to learn about the circulatory system and dissect animal hearts.  She has cadets from the Citadel come to work with the 5th graders to create engineering projects that make the students think outside of the box.  In addition, she works with small groups of students struggling with math to help them overcome their barriers and succeed.  She sets up times where students who earn rewards for behavior and grades can come and explore in her room.  She oversees our hands on touch tank and terrapin aquarium so students can see marine life in their natural habitat. She is quiet and soft spoken, but creates a classroom where students feel free to take a risk.   All of these qualities make her an awesome STEM teacher.  We are truly blessed to have her at Mitchell Elementary.

Lori lambert – Lexington 1

Her dedication to her students and her passion for teaching. She is always looking for new ways to teach and new ideas to implement in the class. She is an amazing stem teacher.

Ashley Carter – Lexington 1

Her commitment, dedication, and creativity to students learning is what makes her a awesome STEM teacher.

Koleen “Kody” Taylor – Lexington 1

Mrs. Taylor is a Great part of our Related Arts team at Gilbert Primary.  She engages the students from the start of class to the end and does this with little to no planning or transition time.  She keeps classes on schedule and on task even when our Normal related arts schedule is shifted and adjusted for other academic needs in a school day.

Julia Pressley – Horry

Ms. Pressley is:  organized, creative, inspiring, hands on, loves teaching, and most of all loves her students.  She encourages her students to ask questions and to enjoy the education process. 

John Michael Hammond – Laurens 56

I have worked with Mr. Hammond as the high school counselor, but my middle child has also had him for two classes.  Mr. Hammond uses a Project-Based Learning approach in the classroom by combining traditional notes and teaching with hands-on projects.  He pushes the students to do higher level Math and Science through components of the projects completed in class.  The students are also paired in different groups each project so that they are improving personal skills, leadership, organization, and patience.  Mr. Hammond has the respect of all of his students, and we have seen an increase in the numbers graduating who are interested in (and well-prepared) for engineering fields.

Tamika  Fordham – Calhoun

Tamika now writes children science books, to ready more students in the world. She extends herself to meet all of her students needs. The children love her and she loves them, too!

Ashley Hefner – Greenville

Mrs. Hefner engages and excites students with integrated math and science experiments that involve demonstrating and solving real world phenomenon and problems.  Students participate in numerous hand-on activities that provide many opportunities for learning by doing.  She often posts pictures and videos on the private class Instagram page so parents can discuss concepts with students.

Kristi Waldron – Sumter

Kristi goes above and beyond to incorporate STEM activities in her classroom!! She is very hands on and even more creative. Her students look forward to her class because the get to build stuff!!

Malisa Johnson – Lexington Richland Five

Malisa Johnson has served as a key partner to the College of Education for the last seven years, hosting mathematics methods courses in her classroom, serving as a coaching teacher, and authoring multiple scholarly products with faculty in the field of mathematics education. Her classroom has served as a model demonstration site for hundreds of future teachers of mathematics. Videos of her classroom demonstrations are widely used in teacher preparation and are the inspiration for a book proposal currently under review with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Ms. Johnson consistently integrates STEM disciplines into her everyday teaching, providing students with context-rich learning experiences that integrate these core subject areas. She is among the finest teachers I have ever known, with a clear commitment to serving each and every student that comes through her door. In fact, Ms. Johnson consistently declines opportunities to teach state-identified gifted learners in favor of teaching children in the greatest need of highly quality STEM instruction.

Stacy Merritt – Greenville

Her ability to be a learning facilitator not a presenter of information. She engages in selecting real world problems and make the students feel that failure is necessary part of the process of learning.

Hope Reed – Richland 2

Dr. Hope Reed’s work to increase STEM proficiency among low income and racial minority students is changing the detrimental academic outcomes for these students who are overwhelmingly represented in the lowest track for mathematics instruction. Her Algebra I Project to de-track this important gateway course provides operational strategies for sustained teacher collaboration that has produced tangible improvements in student learning outcomes. Accordingly, the project provides an example of teacher leadership through a teacher-initiated professional development schools (PDS) initiative that in turn developed many teachers’ abilities to practice equity pedagogies resulting in student success.

Her leadership framework based on teacher collaboration and teacher efficacy, coupled with self-fulfilling prophecy theory revealed a sequential pattern of instructional leadership generated by the initiative that led to teacher buy-in. Teachers embraced the de-tracking initiative in response to a school-university partnership that provided research-based strategies and sound teacher leadership. Teacher buy-in subsequently led to enhanced student learning outcomes. As teachers began to see the effects of the initiative on their self-efficacy, the self-fulfilling prophecy of expectation increased teacher buy-in and bolstered students learning outcomes. Findings from Hope’s project suggest that college preparatory mathematics can be successfully accessed by greater numbers of students when offered with appropriate instructional supports, including effective leadership and a school culture that supports and promotes democratic ideals.

Essentially, developing mathematical knowledge for teaching is unlikely to flourish in schools were equity pedagogy is not the fundamental impetus for instruction. The research from Dr. Reed’s pilot project and full implementation of this initiative found that end-of-course testing continued to improve and to significantly alter the academic and life opportunities for marginalized students.

Courtney Wood – Pickens

She goes above and beyond to give students the opportunity to have experiences through STEM.  She challenges students, helps them persevere and problem solve, and learn how to fail.

William (Bill) Ward – Florence 1

Bill is just an awesome teacher in every way. I’ve known him as a science teacher (high school), as a STEM teacher (high school Project Lead the Way), as an elementary STEM teacher, and now as a PTL teacher again, and he is just amazing. His positive energy and passion translate into exciting, meaningful STEM lessons for kids. He has spent his own time and money to transform classroom spaces into STEM labs that are exciting and interesting for students of all ages. He is never afraid to accept a challenge when it comes to teaching STEM. In fact, last year he moved from the high school, which was his comfort zone, to an elementary school to establish a STEM lab. He helped to design and build a dedicated STEM lab where students rotated in throughout the day for STEM activities. This year he has moved back to the high school to teach Project Lead The Way and to continue to grow a solid STEM program at the secondary level. Bill is a latecomer to education, having spent several years in the pharmaceutical industry, and he brings a wealth of experience and expertise to share with his students. Even with that, I’ve never seen him back away from continuing to develop professionally, often leaving his family for days or weeks at a time for the sake of the students and creating meaningful, relevant STEM experiences for them. I cannot say enough positive things about Bill Ward. I truly believe he is a strong STEM leader and teacher and deserves this wonderful award.

Michelle Snyder – Sumter

She is teaching a new sixth grade Project Lead the Way class, incorporates technology,   and most importantly involves real world.

Alexandra Zeldenrust – Spartanburg 6

She always goes above and beyond for her students. She has consistently work with students from tough backgrounds and provides them with superior science education. As a leader in STEM education myself when I was teaching and running a non-profit, I believe she is going to be a major player in SC’s STEM education. I’d love for her to be connected with the right people and proper funds to make that happen.

Ashley Blackwelder – Spartanburg 6

Mrs. Ashley Blackwelder is an awesome STEM teacher because she has helped create a school-wide culture of STEM thinking!  Mrs. Blackwelder has done this through teaching students in the STEM Lab as well as providing an extensive amount of professional development for our staff.  Mrs. Blackwelder has shown our teachers how an interdisciplinary problem based curriculum that focuses on real world problems improves students’ understanding of all academic areas.  Knowing this, Mrs. Blackwelder often works with our school’s reading coach to design classroom lessons and units of study for our staff. 

Mrs. Blackwelder has worked to design experiences for our students that focus on real world problems that are relevant to the lives of our students. Her lessons require students to use teamwork and to use problem based learning strategies and/or an engineering design process to solve problems and create solutions within these experiences.  She has taught our students that failure is a natural part of learning and students have adopted a “not yet” mentality when solving problems. 

Mrs. Blackwelder makes a point of modeling that STEM thinking is necessary for all of our students to be successful in the future. She makes a point of working with all of students including our 4 year olds and our self contained students classified as learners with an intellectual disability.  She makes a point to include these students in the school wide student learning showcases throughout the year.  Additionally, Mrs. Blackwelder will organize and conduct at least two STEM nights throughout the year. At these nights, she provides STEM challenges for students and parents to complete together that model the types of experiences that children are completing each day.

Angelina Strange – Spartanburg 7

Mrs. Angelina (Gina) Strange, a Middle School Science Teacher, is an enthusiastic and effective teacher, inspiring her students to question, contemplate, and get to know the world surrounding us. She has created a learning environment in her classroom suited towards student growth and achievement. I had the pleasure of observing her in action, and was actually awed by the enthusiasm and knowledge of her students. They were vocally disappointed when not chosen to answer the higher level questions! Mrs. Strange creates this level of excitement in her students through her hard work and her use of AVID strategies. For example, while studying “Cells”, she turned the room into a giant cell, with all of the cell structures hanging about. The students literally entered a “cell” complete with vacuole, nucleus, mitochondria, and more. Seated inside the “cell”, they continued their interactive lesson. 

Gina Strange has a deep understanding of the need for respecting the accommodations certain students need. She actively participates in IEP meetings to better understand the needs of those certain students. Independent of an IEP meeting, Mrs. Strange requested assistive technology, which was available at a different school, for her student she realized was a non-reader.

Mrs. Strange is also involved with the students outside of the classroom. At her current school, as well as at her former school, Mrs. Strange is a Girls On The Run co-sponsor. For several years, while at her former school, she was also the PALS  (Prevention, Abstinence, and life Skills) sponsor. After school activities weren’t enough for the girls, so she planned/held lock-in events for the PALS members!

Gina Strange is an educator who is deeply committed to her students inside and outside of classroom. This commitment is recognized by her students and their parents. As a result, she is able to inspire tomorrows leaders far more than the ‘general’ teacher. She is growing the future of STEM careers!

Justin Simpson – Richland 2

Justin is a phenomenal example of what it is to be a teacher today. Justin cares about student success inside and out of the classroom. He provides a relevant and “real-world” application to his science lessons, and he is frequently called upon to share or demonstrate his teaching methods with his colleagues. He never lacks the rigor expected of a high school teacher, while he provides the students with involved lessons that they enjoy, filled with enthusiasm, and frequent “ah-ha” moments for those fortunate to take his courses. Justin is not only a lead teacher, but he is a school leader who is loved, appreciated, and respected by his students, colleagues, and parents. Naturally Justin has been awarded the teacher of the year distinction for Richland School District 2 (2017-2018), and he is called upon to teach honors level courses (Chemistry). He is the epitome of awesome and THE DEFINITION of what a outstanding STEM teacher should be.

Amy B. Bedenbaugh – Lexington 3

Amy is the media specialist and teaches the students through various means of technology, robotics, research, and computer programming.  There are so many things she does with technology but just a few is codeable, creating with pixel, computer science, and she teaches the goggle suite.  Amy has been nominated as teacher of the year twice and was recently names District Teacher of the Year.  She also provides media assistance to teachers during their STEM activities.

Jonathan Scrivner – Anderson 1

Mr. Scrivner takes student learning to the next level.  He engages students at all levels of the learning process.  Mr. Scrivner is also a life long learner.  He is constantly conducting PD and classes for other educators.

Robin Chandler – Greenville

She is one of the best Math teachers we have, and is a very caring and concerned teacher.

Aubrey Kester – Sumter

Mrs. Kester goes above and beyond to implement the STEM process into her children’s learning as often as possible. Just recently they were learning about weather and were given a real life application of building a weather shelter and they had to first brainstorm individually, then brainstorm together, then design individually then design together then got thru each process of the stem role remembering to use real life components of it to include a receipt they had to estimate then calculate and use different math rules. It’s truly phenomenal to watch all of this come together in an amazing learning intervention as a parent. This is really just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the thought, planning, and implementation that this amazing teacher is doing!

Brooks Amick – SC Public Charter School

Mr. Amick is an extremely innovative and creative teacher.  He uses his students’ interests to make learning meaningful and engaging.  Even though he has been teaching for 13 years he continues to strive to be better.  This year he has been working on implementing guided math instruction, integrated with science content as well.  During one of our planning meetings he said, “I feel like this is my first year teaching all over again.  I am working harder than I ever have, but I am being challenged to learn and grow and be better for my students.”  This one statement truly encompasses Mr. Amick’s drive and passion that he has for his students.  The effective instructional strategies that Mr. Amick utilizes during STEM instruction motivates his students to work hard and put forth their best effort.  In addition to his excellence in the classroom, Mr. Amick is also a teacher leader in the school; sharing his knowledge with others during induction workshops, mentor meetings, team meetings, etc.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Mr. Amick.

Rusty Curry – Richland 2

Mr. Curry has taught math and computer science for the past 15 years. In that time, he has taught practically every level and course in the high school math curriculum, from 9th grade Algebra 1 to AP Calculus BC. He is the rare teacher that is able to reach students of all ages and all ability levels, and he is constantly creating new ways to make math fun, accessible, and engaging for his students. Mr. Curry’s approach to teaching is to meet students where they are rather than requiring that students meet him where he wants to be.  That’s why his classroom never looks exactly the same from year to year- or even day to day.

Four years ago, Mr. Curry took on the task of introducing AP Computer Science to our school.  This task required a great deal of his time as he had to basically create his course materials from scratch.  As a result of Mr. Curry’s efforts, AP Computer Science has provided a new pathway for our students to access a critically important STEM field, and our AP Computer Science courses often provide a gateway for students to take their first AP course. Mr. Curry has also been deliberate in recruiting students that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM courses into his AP Computer Science courses, including females and minorities.

Desiree Wilson – Florence 3

Mrs. Wilson leads all of our PLTW courses. She has an amazing rapport with her students which allows her to really delve into the content of her courses. Everything that Mrs. Wilson does with her students is inquiry based and hands on. Students have created shoes for orthotic issues. They’ve diagnosed diseases patients have by taking full medical histories. They’ve designed gifs to demonstrate how signals travel through neurons. She readily shares and advertises through social media the learning that is happening in her classroom.

She is patient and kind, but doesn’t allow students to opt out of their learning.  She has extremely high expectations that students strive to live up to because they don’t want to disappoint her.  She uses those relationships that she’s forged with her students to her advantage–that safe learning environment means that students are willing to take the risks necessary to learn. She’s a leader in our school and district, leading new teachers as a TEAM ONE leader, serving in various leadership positions, and always acting as a voice of reason. She is an asset to our school and community.

Tiffany Sellers – Horry

Tiffany is an incredible science teacher that infuses all of her science classes with real word applications as well as theoretical knowledge. She  She has worked hard to implement advanced STEM classes at our school and provide students with pathways they might have never envisioned for themselves.  She is currently teaching a variety of classes including Clean Energy Technology.  Her students are building motors, photovoltaics, wind turbines, and drip irrigation systems.  She also teaches AP Environmental Science and AP Biology. 

Desiree Wilson – Florence 3

Mrs. Wilson teachers design and modeling via PLTW and her students are engaged and excited about the content.  She always strives to provide opportunities outside of the school corridors for her young scholars as well as her professional being.  Field experiences to USC and Barrier Island are just a few.  She has an art for tying in real world experiences. 

Bridget Richardson – Darlington

Mrs. Richardson is never content with the content.  She is always striving to provide her young scholars with opportunities greater than the text such as field experiences and community partners.

Trent Clary – Florence 1

Mr. Clary has provided opportunities for his young scholars of which extend pass the textbook.  He provides opportunities for creativity and experimentation.

Michael McKenzie – Horry

Michael McKenzie always goes above and beyond for his students. His true passion in life is STEM. During the school day, students look forward to going to his class and are intrinsically motivated to learn. Through the day, students make sure they say hi to him in the hallways and ask him anything to do with science, technology, engineering or math. Michael is always showing students that STEM is all around us. The teachers at his school also know that he is the “go to” person for anything related to STEM and he is always creating instructional slides to help teachers with technology. Outside of class, he coaches robotics and has recently brought students to their first competition. After school and over the weekend he looks for innovative ways to teach his students and ways to incorporate technology into his lessons. This year, Michael has made it a mission to incorporate careers and field trips into his lesson so students will start preparing for their future.

Jimmy Frankie Sullivan – Florence 1

Mr. Sullivan is energetic and cares about the personal and academic well being of his young scholars.  He teaches Medical Detectives via PLTW.

A Carey Sperling – Horry

Carey uses a variety of materials and techniques both in and out of the classroom to bring STEM alive in the students he teaches. He is passionate aout hte subject and dedicates hours each week promoting STEM everywhere he goes.

Beth Harrison – Anderson 4

Ms. Harrison is the Engineering Lab teacher at Mount Lebanon Elementary School. The Engineering Lab is part of the related arts rotation at our school, so all students go to the lab for one period weekly. With no set curriculum, textbook, or other defined materials, Ms. Harrison is responsible for creating all of the lessons for each grade level on her own. Pulling from every resource available and utilizing almost any material imaginable, she is able to create incredibly engaging STEM lessons that not only teach grade level curriculum standards, but also provide students with opportunities to apply those skills in real-world situations. Regardless of the grade level (she teaches kindergarten through sixth grade), Ms. Harrison creates lesson that not only challenge the students academically, but also allows them the chance to build and create using their own imagination. And since our school is 1:1 with Chromebooks, she integrates technology on a regular basis and extends the students’ experiences with a variety of extensions and applications. She also sponsors the school’s Lego Robotics team that meets several afternoons a week and coordinates our district’s annual competition.

Ms. Harrison is also the perfect team player when it comes to the school as a whole. Her position is one of the few in the school that interacts with every individual in the building in some capacity. Whether she is planning with different grade level teachers or meeting with the other related arts teachers or simply chatting with one of the custodians, Beth is one of the most personable folks you will ever find. She is one of the reasons that the staff morale is high at Mount Lebanon.

Finally, in all of my years as a principal, if I asked a student what their favorite part of school was, they would inevitably say “recess” or “PE.” However, at Mount Lebanon, “going to the Engineering Lab” is at the top of almost every student’s list and Ms. Harrison is the reason for that. I do not think there could be a greater compliment for a teacher!

Kelly LaFluer – Horry

Kelly teaches three Project Lead the Way Course including Design and Modeling, Medical Detectives, and Automation & Robotics at Whittemore Park Middle School. She is a STEM leader for middle schools in Horry County Schools. Kelly is passionate about the students and curriculum.Her classroom is student centered positive learning environment. Her lessons are full of high interest, open-ended problems that allow students to explore and discover new information. Kelly is also the sponsor of our robotics club. She is genuine, personable, and a joy to work with. Kelly goes over and beyond to pitch in for other staff members outside of her own responsibilities and she is committed to providing our students with opportunities to learn and grow.

Denise Wright – Horry

Mrs. Wright is a passionate science teachers that brings science to life for her students. She collaborates with NASA to help our students explore space in engaging ways. She promoted STEM and robotics to all students, but especially our female students to show them that they can do amazing things and pursue careers in STEM. She is humble and deserves the recognition.

Jill Barnes – Horry

Ms. Barnes is not your typical teacher. She takes teaching and learning to the next level. Her lessons are truly engaging and interactive for all students. She takes a uniquely differentiated approach to executing lessons to ensure that her lowest through highest performers thrive. I’ve heard of kinesthetic learning, but she takes hands-on to a new level!! She is selfless and all about enhancing her children’s education to create a passion, desire and yearning for learning in her students. Her ability to foster a cross-curricular climate and culture that embraces struggle and leads to success is the reason I believe she should be your STEM Educator of the Year!

Amanda Raper – Kershaw

Amanda is our STEAM lab teacher for our 4K-5th grade students. She goes above and beyond each day to plan labs and experiments that are age and developmentally appropriate in order to expose our children to STEAM curriculum and instruction.

Heather Seay – Spartanburg 2

Mrs. Seay regularly incorporates STEM activities into her curriculum. She has a weekly STEM time/activity that really sparks excitement for her students. She stresses the importance of STEM subjects and their applications to real life while maintaining the integrity of her third grade curriculum. Mrs. Seay  has recently created a Traveling STEM Box for her class. Her students take the box home to share lessons and learning with their families. This school to home connection is vital in building relationships and supporting student achievement in our Title I school.  She is the kind of educator that I would want teaching my own children. She looks at ways to inspire students to think creatively and gives them an opportunity for active learning that many teachers don’t take the time to pursue.

Jennifer McLeod-Crady – Richland 2

Ms. McLeod works to facilitate learning with student led investigations that apply to practical skills in STEM.  She develops authentic learning opportunities in STEM that promotes the development of true college and career ready skills within students.  She supports other teachers on her team to do the same.  Students learn how to develop a sense of curiosity and questioning so that they develop a sense of determination to learn and change.  Her students are coached by Ms. McLeod and other teachers on the team as they develop their own research plans, engaged in research, synthesize data, and present their findings .  She brings guest speakers in STEM to students and brings students to engage in STEM experiences in workplace environments. She truly goes above and beyond the required workday to prepare all of her students for success after high school by mentoring them, arranging schedules, and developing community connections.

Michael McKenzie – Horry

He has developed a variety of STEM course offerings for students in the school. He looks for ways to support teachers in technology use. He coaches the robotics team. He gives students first-hand STEM experiences outside of the classroom by organizing field trips.

Erin Ellis – Horry

Mrs. Ellis is OUTSTANDING. She has a passion for STEM that goes far beyond the day to day instruction. She is constantly refining her practices to improve and seeks opportunities to grow. She partners with families through social media and holding special events like a STEM night, where families can participate in the STEM activities with their families. Not only has she embraced all of the training and learning and growing that it takes to be an outstanding STEM teacher, but she also serves as a cluster district leader for other STEM teachers in our district. She opens her classroom for fellow instructors to come observe and collaborate and she is always sharing information to help improve STEM practice in our district. She is a leader among her peers who demonstrates a DAILY passion for what she does. Above all, she loves her students and wants to see them all experience STEM in their own unique way, from kindergarteners to 5th graders. Outside of school she takes time to try out all of her activities and to share pictures, videos and other learning logs with families and students. Students are excited about STEM because of her fire and passion!

Katelyn  Tobrocke – Horry

Katelyn teaches STEM for all grade levels K-5, has to plan the lessons, modules and projects for each grade  level and makes it  engaging, organized, and fun! The kids absolutely love coming to her class!

Elizabeth Riebe – Greenville

She is constantly looking for innovative ways to teacher her fourth graders. She just completed an amazing unit on long division we’re she presented the material as patient cases, the students were all doctors. They had to “operate” on the problems.  Here are some of the pictures from the week she posted on her website: https://sites.google.com/greenvilleschools.us/eriebe

John Leneschmidt – Lexington 1

Interacts with the students well and always goes above and beyond.

Grace Coan – Greenville

Grace Coan is always looking for ways to integrate STEM activities into her classroom. She shares ideas with other teachers, and started a school-wide STEM/STEAM Day. Her students look forward to the STEM lessons she plans, and learn to work together as they solve problems through these activities. She also teaches Science classes at Roper Mountain Science Center to other teachers in the summer, and is a Science contact for her grade level. She finds relevant, fun activities using STEM in the classroom, and makes learning fun for her students.

Laura Riordan – Spartanburg 2

Mrs. Riordan was my son’s third grade teacher last year. She made challenging STEM lessons that inspired my son. He truly began to love school again after a rough year before and she was a teacher that made a difference in his life. One time last year even parents were included in a STEM challenge. We worked in teams with our children and other parents and their children building towers with paper.

This year she is one of the teachers at my son’s school who are heading up the new Legos robotics club at the school. She is one amazing teacher and such a kind and genuine person!

Stacy Merritt – Greenville

Mrs. Merritt is inquisitive and very entertaining. She works hard to showcase new ideas and activities to all of her students.

Stephanie Wood – Greenville

Stephanie is my co-teacher in PMA (Primary Multiage).  We teach a group of 44 amazing 1st and 2nd graders.  I teach all the literacy related subjects, and Stephanie teaches math, science, and social studies.  Mrs. Wood does an amazing job of balancing the science standards that must be covered with STEAM projects that encourage the kids and get them thinking like an engineer.  After a regular unit in science, she will do a STEAM project.  The students begin by creating an individual design that fits the requirements, and then they are assigned to a group.  They must work with their group to pick a group design and then they work to bring that design to fruition. After their design is complete, they test it and then reflect on it.  What worked?  What could we have done differently?  Students also have the opportunity to share their group design with the class.  Not only do the students love these STEAM projects that Mrs. Wood implements, but they are also learning so much from them.  On top of engineering skills, they are also learning how to communicate with each other and how to speak and share their thoughts with a group.  They are learning how to work through their problems and get along with their peers.  These are skills that are not just 1st/2nd grade skills, they are life skills!  Projects Mrs. Wood has done with students include but are not limited to:  Pumpkin drop (students designed packaging that would help a pumpkin survive a drop from a 2 story window), Playground Design (students designed a playground out of recyclable materials), Catapults (students designed a catapult that could launch mini pumpkin candy pieces and then they competed in “Pumpkin Olympics”), and much more!  Mrs. Wood is very deserving of this award!

Dana Sox – Lexington 1

Dana cares for every single one of her students on such a deep level. She is always trying to push her students to do more and be more. She continuously questions her own practice and looks for ways to provide more meaningful/relevant experiences for her students.

Heather Raushenberger – Greenville

Heather teaches STEM lab to every class in the school k5 through 5th. She does not have her own classroom, and travels around each class period with her rolling cart full of STEM materials. She always has a smile on her face, and the kids love when it is their time for STEM lab. Heather plans fun and engaging lessons that correlate with state standards. We are lucky to have her at our school!

Christine White – Horry

As the STEM teacher in my building I am excited to teach my students to be better thinkers, collaborators, and problem solvers. 

Sean McCann – Beaufort

Started first esports club in Beaufort County School District

Wanda Stringfellow – Chester

Ms. Stringfellow has always been a leader in the area of STEM education with students. She has attended Roper Mountain Institute for several years in a row without being asked in order to ensure her students were receiving the most up to date STEM experiences that were authentic. She has helped other colleagues embrace STEM and Project Based Learning.

Amy Baldwin – Dorchester 2

Amy is an engaging, caring and superior STEM teacher,  supporter, promoter, colleague and mentor.  She pushes especially for females to get involved and engaged, and for a middle school teacher that is no easy task.  She stimulates her students, makes STEM fun and exciting. She shares with the community tries to shine as much light as she can.  And it’s never about her, it’s all about the kids!

Deborah Seyffer – Greenville

Deb teaches first grade students how to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and be creative. She is constantly thinking outside of the box to ensure that her students have real world connections within her classroom. Her activities are thoughtful and standard based, providing students with the opportunity fall in love with learning within a STEM/STEAM classroom.

Amanda Sopko – Greenville 

Amanda is an amazing teacher who integrates STEM daily in her 4th grade classroom. Her students collaborate, communicate, create, and think critically to solve real world problems and navigate real world scenarios. She is innovative and create thoughtful and meaningful lessons to ensure that her students are embracing the necessary content in a purposeful way.

Susan Teague – Greenville

Susan has the patience for the type of open classroom for the students to corroborate and explore with the assignments/labs that are made to help students engage thinking and problem solving skills on their own.

Leann Toby – Lancaster

Leann is willing to take risks in her classroom. She wants what is best for them and is creates opportunities for her second grade students to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and be creative while learning about real world careers and problems. She follows a design process in her own learning and lesson development (and probably doesn’t even realize it!). Her classroom fosters a love of learning and curiosity.

Cliff Roberts – Lexington 1

Mr. Roberts loves teaching and learning!  His classes are so fun and engaging that his student’s and his student’s parents want to take STEM! One of my favorite projects to watch students go through is the paper roller coaster project. Students create, revise, reflect and revise repeatedly until their coaster meets their expectations and the written criteria. Mr. Roberts promotes an environment of inclusion, collaboration and communication in every class. His student’s grow into leaders that are not afraid to think out of the box. For example,  a group of his students recently met with Lexington Town officials to share an idea for a new inclusive playground for the city. Students presented the topic and have been asked by the city to return with a plan of action that could be implemented. Mr. Roberts is an awesome teacher because he challenges his students to do more than they thought possible and he supports them throughout the process.

Kevin Fast – Charleston

He has a heart as big as gold. He invests many extra hours (unpaid) in supporting his program

Cliff Roberts – Lexington 1

Mr. Roberts, affectionally known to students as Mr. STEM, has created a safe environment for all students to investigate, innovate, and make mistakes. His best quality is asking questions. Problem-solving with kids is visible in his classroom every day. I have seen the amazed and delighted faces of students when their hot air balloon reaches great heights, the code on their video games finally work, or an entire class holds their breath waiting for the collapse, as more weight is added to a toothpick bridge structure. Mr. Roberts spends countless hours after school teaching students to program robots. He has coached 2 robotics teams to state awards and currently coaches four FLL teams. Because in his words, “I can’t tell them no if they want to learn.” It is that constant positive mindset and dedication to young people that keep kids engaged in STEM learning.

Janna Epting – Pickens

She uses innovative process to get the students in engage in more than just a project.  She has her students working through the engineer design process by structuring her lessons to ask students, explore the content, modeling by let students pre-plan and building prototypes, evaluate the design and allow for improvements, and explain the thought process. She also works with co-teachers to make sure that the lesson can be extended across the content.  The STEM lessons are integrated with her math, science, and social studies standards. 

Parker Rowland – Pickens

Mr. Rowland is an innovative teacher that incorporates STEM into his daily curriculum. In his fourth grade math class he uses the Engineering Design Process to teach his math standards by posing questions to students, then allowing them to explore ways to solve that problem through mini-lessons or independent work. Students then model and explain how they solved the problem. Finally, the students evaluate their own process and product to determine if it worked or not. He also uses STEM challenges to assess students’ content knowledge during and at the end of units. He engages students in real-world situations to help them connect their learning to the world around them.

Laura Thompson- Pickens

This teacher has embraced the thought process that goes behind STEM by having students learn  the engineer and design process to solve problems in all subject areas.  It is amazing to me how deeply that the Kindergarten students can explain their thinking.  She has also truly made her classroom an environment where failure is an option and viewed as a chance to try again or improve the design.  The students complete designs that are both real world and extensions of her picture books.

Holly Menendez – Pickens

Mrs. Menendez has embraced STEM from the moment she started working at our school.  She has bought into the engineer and design process and truly believes that community involvement is important in building STEM knowledge for students.  She has setup STEM collaboration days for her entire grade level to work with Creative Builders, Clemson University, and our own STEM knowledge to create several projects for the students. The students are met with the background knowledge to understand how to work through frustration and challenges. They understand the STEM thought process is to solve problems or challenges through ask, explore, model, evaluate, and explain.

Darlin Jordan – Horry

Darlin is always excited about teaching STEM and is always wanting her students for the time she is given.  She says she never has enough time with them.  We have some very excited students at DES this year because of our new STEM program.  She plans out the lessons so that students get to explore and go through all the steps. She does not just model she lets them get in and do.  She has created a STEM club so students can have more time with exploration. She is by far THE BEST in HCS for this position and award!   

John Michael Hammond – Laurens 56

Mr. Hammond teaches through hands on experiences and real world problem solving. Students are engaged in his class and many are in his class before and after school to work on their various projects. This is because they are so excited and invested in the projects they choose and present. Mr. Hammond develops positive relationships with his students and pushes them out of their comfort zones, so they can achieve at a high level.

Dianne Smith – Horry

This teacher coordinates, teaches, and facilitates the following programs at my school:

Trex Contest: Every week, several fifth and sixth grade students weigh the amount of plastic bags collected. Students calculate the total number of pounds each bag weighed, calculate the total for the month, and then calculate the total amount collected for the year.  This amount is then shared on the school morning news report. Students also made a commercial for the morning news report to share the effects of plastic on the environment and the importance of why plastic bags need to be recycled. 

First Lego League: The school has two First Lego League Robotics Teams. This year the teams found a real world problem in their community or a public space and came up with an innovative solution. They Hydro Sharks are researching the use of dams to create hydro energy. They are discovering that dams destroy a large amount of land and pose safety risks or have negative impacts on ecosystems. They are working on a prototype to create energy on a smaller scale using micro hydro turbines in schools that will create energy when toilets are flushed.  The energy can be stored along with the solar energy that the school generates and can be used by the school and community. They are learning how to convert joules per second into watts. The Pollution Solution team discovered that plastic pollution is a huge problem and are collecting plastic to turn into plastic filament for our 3D printers. They are researching cost of shredders and filament extruders, and the types of plastic that can be used. They are designing and printing toys on the 3D printer, using recycled plastic, and giving the toys to underprivileged children. Their designs require careful measurement and precise design in 3D modeling software.

Operation Warm a Heart. Students discovered that cancer patients become very cold when going through chemotherapy . They are using recycled material they have around their homes, such as t-shirts and towels, to weave blankets and hats to keep cancer patients warm. Collecting, creating, and measuring are essential for student work on this project.

In addition, she teaches several STEM classes during the day.

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

She makes sure no matter what learning ability the child has they still learn something and have fun. She is amazing to watch.

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

She goes above and beyond for her students and staff everyday. She loves being with her students and makes sure to reach each of them no matter what it takes. She has even gone to their house to help them because the student didn’t the other children to know.

Amanda Brown – Berkeley 

The integration of STEM into the language arts/reading and writing classroom is continuing to build students’ experiences. Collaboration with partner for a STEM community of learning and activities for student choice and PBL.

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

She had great ideas for us to do and she cared and shes just an amazing teacher

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she is very encourging

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she helps us but not to much

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

how much dedication she gives

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

Outgoing, And never gives up

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she makes sure that we have fun but, also get our work done.

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she is smart and itelligent

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she helps with every thing and is great

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

Mrs. Lambert always has new projects to do and she is excited about doing them. When we need help she is there to help every step of the way with patience and compassion

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

very smart and tuff love. She is kind and knows what she is talking about.

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

She is kind and has so much experience in robotics

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she lets us have fun and do things other teachers dont

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

she is caring

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

Their dedication to the team and to us.

Lori Lambert – Lexington 1

A teacher that is motivated to keeping there students on track at all times

Jennifer Hines – Abbeville

Jennifer is an exceptional STEM teacher.   She conducts PBL learning projects on topics that fascinate her students such as severe weather.  She teaches computer skills by using Google APPS.  Jennifer also collaborates with Erskine College and the South Carolina State Museum to provide animal and plant experiences and an Astronomy Night with telescopes.   Activities in which  students learn to solve problems while collaborating and building are provided during STEM days in her classroom.  Some of the activities are building a roller coaster for an amusement park or using recycled materials  to build a boat that will support weight.

Jennifer also provides opportunities for her students to participate in a Science Fair. Not only does she devote a significant amount of time to her students, she is always  willing to mentor beginning teachers and assist veteran teachers in any way that she can. Jennifer is currently serving on the South Carolina Science Standards Review Committee and the South Carolina Science Data Review Committee. Jennifer is an asset to our school and community,  and she is doing an amazing job of equipping our students for the future.   I feel that she is very deserving to be South Carolina’s  STEM Educator of the Year.

Kristin Crump – Marlboro

Has a passion for encouraging students to challenge themselves and think outside of the box. Shows excitement and enjoyment in teaching students through STEM.

Dr. Diane Reeder – Dorchester 2

I had Dr. Reeder as a teacher when I was in high school and can attest to how truly awesome she is. She is not only an amazing science teacher but is also a chiropractor! She uses real life world applications in her classes and makes science fun!

Tamatha Pye – Dorchester 2

A teacher who advocates and associates students with the engineering process through real world and effective learning practices. She is willing to do anything for her students to help them learn in a hands on environment benefiting them in growth of understanding of soft skills and all parts of the STEM mindset.

Jeff Murrie – Florence 1

Jeff is a veteran teacher and has been teaching in FSD1 for as long as I can remember. My kids all had Mr. Murray and LOVED him. He continues to find innovative ways for students to learn and doesn’t realize the impact he makes on a daily basis. This year he played an integral part in getting healthier lunch options for students in FSD1. He not only genuinely cares about his students but he integrates STEM on a daily basis.

Beth Leavitt – Greenville

Ms. Leavitt is a hands-on teacher. She believes that the students need to have an answer to the proverbial question “Why do I need to know this?” She finds relevance in everything. Her first hand experiences, working as an environmental chemist prior to teaching and working with NASA after becoming a finalist in the Educator Astronaut selection, has provided lessons and experiences for the students where they really get a feel for the importance of learning. Not many teachers can demonstrate the heat shield with an actual Shuttle tile or convey the feeling of microgravity from riding the Vomit Comet. Her ability to relate to students in her classroom also translates to all crowds. After meeting Buzz Aldrin at the National Space Club gala she worked to have 5 giant Mars maps brought to Greenville County. It is obvious that her reach is far beyond her classroom.

Karesha Taylor-Parnell – Jasper

Karesha Taylor-Parnell is an excellent facilitator of learning.  Her SC READY Mathematics and SC PASS Science scores signify the excellence that she exudes when she is teaching her students.   Her students are always actively engaged in hands-on learning experiences.  There is never a lost of instructional time.  Each lessons has real-world connections, technology infusion, and meaningful dialogue.   

Jean Masdonati – Fairfield

Mrs. Masdonati is a dynamic math educator and teacher in our STEM Early College Academy. Mrs. Masdonati plans engaging lessons that meet varied learning styles while forcing students to think critically and problem solve. Mrs. Masdonati uses personal relevance and real world connections to hook her students to learning.

Kamala Dasary – Fairfield

Mrs. Dasary serves in a dual capacity at Fairfield Central High School as she teaches Science and Math in our STEM Early College Academy where students earn an Associate Degree in Science before graduating from high school. Mrs. Dasary has the ability to break down complicated concepts to help students learn and engage in her content.

Keith Porter – Rock Hill

Mr. Porter effectively integrates content into STEM instruction. Each Friday students participate in a Makerspace to help their learning come alive. The creativity his students have shown is inspiring. He engages his students in opportunities that get them excited about school. At the beginning of the year he used a 3-D printer to make a chess board with all the pieces to build relationships with students and get them ready to engage in learning. He is innovative, engaging and is worthy of this award.

Marilyn Curtain-Phillips – Fairfield

Mrs. Curtain-Phillips (CP) is a dynamic mathematics educator who also serves as department chair. Mrs. CP’s calm demeanor and knowledge with test anxiety has helped our math students who are fearful of math overcome their fears using the strategies she has researched.

Rachel Harrell – Aiken

Ms. Harrell goes above and beyond every day. She consistently embeds the core ares of STEM (Science – Technology – English – Math) in daily instruction.

Jolandra White – Rock Hill 

She is amazing with the students at my son’s school. She exposed them to so much from building and engineering, inventions, 3D printing, coding and robotics, and even VR. My son comes home each week going on and on about some great thing they did in STEAM class. She is preparing him and all the students for a great future!

Robert McKenzie – Aiken

Mr. McKenzie goes above and beyond daily in the classroom. He consistently implements all elements of the STEM framework. His instruction is rigorous, engaging, and innovative.

Mr. Mendoza – Barnwell 19

He uses hands on to make teaching interesting and to make the lessons come alive.

Amanda Rosales – Florence 3

Mrs. Rosales goes above and beyond when it comes to STEM.  She is our math/science coach.  She is always planning grade level appropriate stem lessons and activities for the whole school.  She also leads our STEM girls club where 4th-6th grade girls learn a tremendous amount from her while engaging in hands on activities.  Mrs. Rosales is also conscious of planning activities that go along with what students are learning in the classroom so that lessons are meaningful.  She’s the best!

Katina Davis – Florence 2

Ms. Davis goes above and beyond to help her students appreciate science by including project-based learning to make the experience more real-life based.

Amelia Betford – Rock Hill

Ms. Betford is always facilitating the learning and discovery of her students in fun and engaging ways.  She relates her subject to real world issues and subject matter that interests her students in order to provide meaningful and memorable instruction.  Her math lessons will not only help the students understand the standards for 6th grade, but are laying the foundation for the use of math in the remainder of their mortal existence.

James Koterba – Rock Hill

Mr. Koterba brings history to life for his students.  He integrates other subject areas into his specialty through the use of projects and activities that make his students think outside the box and relate what use to be to their version of reality.  He makes a true difference in the lives of his students.  Passion for learning and a desire to become good citizens is what his lessons inspire within the hearts of sixth graders. 

National History Day is one of the many projects Mr. Koterba has his students work.  This project not only helps students focus learning tools from areas of math, science, and english language arts, but brings in the technology and arts areas.  With these powers combined, his students succeed in creating a meaningful and memorable project that competes in a national competition that inspires a love for history. 

Mr. Koterba uses a variety of methods to reach all of his students.  Respected and beloved by students, parents, and colleagues, he is truly a gem in our educational system and deserves to receive this award.

Dr. Dee Marshall – Georgetown

Dr. Marshall empowers her students to take control of their own learning through innovation and design using 3D printing.

Jolandra White – Rock Hill

It is my pleasure to nominate Jolandra White for the SC STEM Educator of the Year Award.

I previously worked with Mrs. White in my position as Assistant Principal of Oakdale Elementary School for six years.  This is her twenty-third year in education, where she has taught nine years in the classroom (pre-K, 2nd, 3rd, 4th), was a media specialist for thirteen years, and this year, began her second year teaching STEAM classes as the school’s STEAM teacher.  She is part of the related arts team and has the pleasure of working with all 4K-fifth grade students each week.

She is an educator who goes over and beyond what is required. She sponsors the Girls Who Code Club, which she started last year. The girls have participated in several competitions around the state and are eagerly looking forward to competing again this year! She even finds time to run the daily morning news program and help out with events on weekends such as the iMAGINE STEAM Festival in Rock Hill. 

Mrs. White is an innovative educator who is known for being a trailblazer.  Her ability to connect with students and her talent for integrating technology into lessons across all grade levels is truly superior.  She incorporates Bloxel sets, Kiva Planks, Dash and Dot robots, Ozobots, Code-a-pillars, Legos, Sphero, coding, and teaches students how to use a green screen. Students visit her Makerspace weekly that houses virtual reality goggles, circuit kits, and more. I never know what to expect when I enter her space!  Will students be building Rapunzel’s tower, making prosthetic legs for injured animals, or be designing an automatic pizza cutter or a vehicle that helps with medical transport?

This month, she received the Technology Innovative Programs Award from the South Carolina Association for Educational Technology.  She has presented at several conferences, such as the OEC Conference, the SC Edtech Conference (Oakdale was a resent TIPs Award winner), the SCASL (SC Association of School Librarians) Conference where she presented a session on how to incorporate literature and coding, the 10th Annual Partnership Conference at Winthrop University, and twice at ISTE.  She was Oakdale’s 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year, where she was recognized by colleagues for her passion and dedication for students.

In closing, Mrs. White is an exceptional leader and role model.  She always maintains a positive attitude, has an engaging learning environment where children feel safe to explore and take risks, and is consistently brimming with new ideas!  She is passionate about students learning and growing by exposing them to a variety of problem-solving activities and challenges. In her class, students also learn about STEM careers, where they discover their ideas can impact their future and the world.  I believe Jolandra White would be the perfect recipient of this honor! Thank you for your consideration.

Michelle Stroud – Lancaster

She is an awesome teacher that uses STEM in the classroom daily.  Her students are always collaborating and communicating with each other and is the norm in her classroom.  We have to have critical thinking for each activity we complete in class.  We are also creative.  Students are hands-on daily and very seldom use textbooks in class.  We discuss how what we are learning will help us to be career ready.

Joanna McCumber – Florence 1

She is superwoman here at John W. Moore.  She spear headed our move to become Advanced STEM Certified.  Ms. McCumber has brought in numerous STEM PD opportunities, She created a STEM Lab at our school and a Zspace Lab.  I’ve lost cost of all the donors choose grants she has received to provide our school with the latest STEM activies and equipment. At her leadership she leads our Robotics team and through grants has created a School Garden where students have planted and harvested vegetables.  Currently she acquired drones for our school and will create a drone class for next year.  We have been very fortunate to receive so much equipment and opportunities for our students.  These include HP Sprout in several classrooms, Makey-Makey Labs, 3D Printers, Curriculum ect…Joanna McCumber is a treasure and to really see all that she has contributed to our school, you would have to visit.

Jessica Gribble – SC School for the Deaf and Blind

Jessica is a well-oiled, hands-on, walking/talking motivator and teacher of STEM students. She makes education and teaching fun and exciting every day. Her students and peers admire her ability to communicate her love for and knowledge of science with every one!

Summer Lane – Newberry

Summer engages her students with technology in amazing ways.

Dee Marshall – Georgetown

She goes beyond what is required in understanding technology herself and then making it available and interesting for her students as well as other professionals. Her expertise, guidance and love of science has helped me in learning and growing as a professional.  She is an asset to our school and community.

Jessica Boyington – Clarendon 3

Mrs. Jessica has been able to build our STEAM Lab from the ground up here at WGE.  She serves our 3rd-5th students through hands-on experiences in the lab and then takes mobile labs into our early childhood classrooms.  Her lessons are rigorous, but fun.  It is amazing to see how she develops a love for science and education in our students through her lessons.  She is not only an awesome STEM teacher, but an even better person.  One of her many strengths is her ability to build lasting relationships with her students.

Timothy Stewart – Florence 2

Mr. Stewart involves our Hannah-Pamplico High School students in hands-on experiences in robotics, drone technology, and he teaches engineering and engineering design.  He is also a teacher at the new Florence County Continuum in our neighborhood community of Lake City.  He is always seeking opportunities to propel students into areas of STEM, and he serves as a great role model for them.  Additionally, Mr. Stewart is our current District Teacher of the Year and leads phenomenally in that effort.  Without a doubt, he is an awesome STEM teacher and should be recognized for being so.

Susan Gardner – Barnwell 45

Mrs. Gardner has been instrumental in the creation of the new STEM Lab program at Barnwell Elementary School this year.She moved to our school after managing the STEM Lab at Guinyard Butler Middle School over the past few years.Mrs. Gardner, who has 19 years teaching experience in Barnwell School District 45 and has served in many leadership roles throughout her career expressed her excitement for this opportunity, “STEM labs give students an awesome chance to see a math or science concept come to life through hands-on experiences. I am excited that students at BES will now get their very own STEM lab (complete with virtual reality equipment) that will both excite and encourage them to develop a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math!”Mrs. Gardner also sponsors our school Robotics Club.She is an exceedingly qualified educator, skilled communicator, efficient and hard-working individual and, most importantly, always maintains a positive attitude.

Rebecca Benvenuto – Fort Mill

Rebecca is a technology/STEM teacher at Tega Cay Elementary, grades K-5. She plans and meets with all of the grade levels to incorporate STEM into their units and long range plans. She takes STEM beyond the typical build most teachers and classes are used to completing.  by using a variety of SOS strategies to show how STEM can be incorporated in all subjects across the curriculum. Rebecca introduces the students to situations that deal with real world problems while they then work on solutions to these problems. She does everything from coding with the students to having them develop their own carbonated drink, giving it a name, developing the packaging and even having them write a commercial to market their drink product.  Rebecca brings guest speakers to the school so the students can make the connection between STEM and careers. She is always the first person to help organize our STEM/Literacy night, she uses her classroom as a model classroom for other teachers to come observe so they become more comfortable with STEM in their own room as well as helping with a summer STEM program at our school. Rebecca thinks outside of the box which allows for our students to become critical thinkings themself. Our students love going to her class.

Mr. Mark Davidson – Lee County

Mr. Davidson, teaches in our Science Department here at Lee Central High School. Mark is also the District Teacher of the year for the Lee County School District. Mark, is a life long educator who has been in the Lee County school system for over 30 years. Mark has been teaching Physics and Biology for his entire tenure. The information that he shares with his student and the level of science and math being taught in his class is why i would like to nominate him for the award.

Lisa Hartley – Union

Lisa is a tireless educator that works hard to provide as many opportunities for her students as possible.  She has started a robotics club for her students this year so that they will have an opportunity to practice the skills they are learning in her classes or just to learn more about robotics and engineering.  Her goal is to offer the students a chance to compete in various robotics competitions such as those through VEX and SkillsUSA.

Patty Smith – Clover

Patty is a state winner of the PAEMST and has done exemplary work to promote the integration of content in an engaging manner and developing a greater interest in STEM throughout the community

Christi Fricks – Anderson 4

Christi is a much-loved teacher who inspires her students and colleagues alike with engaging lessons she is a proven leader having served as a member of the Board of the SCCTM in several capacities: VP, President-elect, President, Past President, and NCTM Representative. A tireless worker who was recently named as her district’s TOY

Ashlee Rollison – Dorchester 2

Ashlee has devoted herself and her career to supporting the notion of STEM begins at the elementary level.  When I first met Ashlee, she was the STEM Educator for her school and served as a “special area” teacher where students and teachers came to her class on a regular basis to work through the EiE kits K-5.  Over the years, she has served in many roles based on funding available and is currently the Media Specialist for the same school.  Since taking this position, she has conformed the library to a Discovery Center where she not only supports library science but all aspects of STEM as well.  Included in the Discovery Center are Maker Spaces, 3D printer, explore stations, robotics and more.  She is always seeking new avenues to support the STEM learning at her school with everyone from students to teachers and administrators in both her professional and personal time – she never stops learning and giving.

Constantina Green – Richland 1

Mrs. Green always finds real world learning opportunities for her students.  She constantly promotes STEM education and plans STEM learning opportunities for students beyond the ones in her own classroom.  She is also involved in the SC Science Council because she wants to impact students STEM education at a greater level.

Dr. Patricia Saxon – Aiken

Dr. Saxon is a trained English Language Arts teacher.  She was tasked with instructing the Girls in Engineering course.  Dr. Saxon was able to follow the curriculum of Girls in Engineering class which is aligned to the STEM curriculum.  Her students started with researching occupations in engineering and women trailblazers in engineering.   Her students have completed culminating projects along with STEM-related experiential assignments while teaching the students research-based writing and reading skills that can be applied in their other courses.  Dr. Saxon is a phenomenal teacher who is open to trying unfamiliar strategies that will assist her students in mastering the STEM curriculum.  She motivates her students to never give up and cross-curricular usage of strategies she has modeled for them.   

Dr. Saxon often stays late and spends an enormous amount of time researching so that her students will have optimal learning experiences in her classes and beyond.  She is willing to ask for assistance from her colleagues and discuss areas she feels she needs to improve. 

Kirstin Bullington – Richland 2

Mrs. Bullington is an awesome teacher for so many reasons, but a few of them are she works to develop students’ love of inquiry and problem solving, she challenges students to broaden their perspectives and to see themselves as a contributing member of a global society, she fosters students interests in STEM with a focus on alternative energy source engineering and improving the lives of others through science and engineering.  Mrs. Bullington is a students’ teacher who is always looking for ways to make student learning rigorous, fun, authentic, and applicable. Students who have had her as a teacher often share how much they’ve learned, that her course has challenged them to use their learning to contribute positively to the lives of others and to seek meaningful ways to better the world with problem based learning.

Alisa Hobgood – Florence 1

Alisa is an award-winning AP Calculus teacher who inspires her students and colleagues alike with engaging lessons. An outstanding leader who has served as a member of the Board of the SCCTM spending four years as the VP at Large and was recently elected President-elect. A tireless worker who is tech savvy and uses her many interests to promote STEM across the state.

Amy Umberger – Lexington Richland 5

She is an advocate for environmental science and works to promote STEM improvement statewide, encouraging communities to be more environmentally responsible citizens. She is a past president of the SC Science Council and is the program chair for the regional environment science conference scheduled for Fall 2020.

Cherlyn Anderson – Lexington 3

Mrs. Anderson is passionate about teaching STEM principles to her seventh grade students.  Her students consistently engage in challenging science problems that allow them to learn the SC Academic Standards, but through real world connections.  She uses virtual reality (VR) simulations, BreakoutEDU challenges, robotics and engineering challenges, and regular lab experiences as part of her classroom instruction.  Her classroom is high energy, high enthusiasm for teaching STEM all of the time.  Students will tell you that her class is one of their favorites and are eager to share their learning with visitors. 

Greg Hardin – Horry County

With block scheduling, Mr. Hardin has 6 periods a year to teach.  He has taken it upon himself to teach 7 different classes including:  Honors Physics, Honors Calculus, 2 Project Lead the Way Intro to Engineering, AP Calculus AB & BC, and AP Physics.  Not only does he teach all of these high-level courses, he does an amazing job holding the kids to high standards while making the material understandable.

Tracy Elmore – Kershaw

Tracy has been the STEAM/Project Lead the Way lead teacher in Kershaw County for a number of years.  Her dedication to STEAM is seen everywhere in the district and community.  She works diligently to prepare curriculum and instruction for her students and colleagues as well as teaming up with her colleagues for cross-curricular opportunities.  Her talents in the classroom and district have earned her a spot on the Kershaw County STEAM Council, a group of school and community leaders that is creating a common vision and mission for the students of Kershaw County to have access to STEAM education that will prepare them for career and leadership opportunities in the community.

Tracy is always inviting local business and industry members of the community and planning field studies to assist in making STEM education relevant to her students.  Parent STEM evenings are a regular part of the calendar where students get to show off what they have learned and to share and teach their parents, through group activities, what they are doing in their STEM classes. 

Tracy also co-teaches a robotics unit with her computer science colleague where the students build and program robots to perform specific tasks.  This lesson culminates in an event where students compete and their parents and the community are invited to watch their robots in action.  Tracy continues to look for new and innovative ways to engage her students in meaningful and relevant instruction that is also timely given the speed with which we see technology change.  Her energy is contagious and her focus is always on the students and what she can do to engage them on a daily basis.

Deirdre Appleby – Newberry

She is a patient and gifted engineer and teacher who seamlessly translates technology and evidence-based research into practical, understandable, and student-friendly learning applications. She is an award winning author, sought-after expert consultant, and role model for young women (and men) entering into STEM practice. Finally, she cares deeply about her students, her colleagues, and her community and she is delightfully engaging.

Val Mosher – Greenville

Passion/drive, Innovation, Touches lives, Attention to detail, Commitment, Solar panels, new exhibits, SciGirls,Chemical engineer, left industry to work in education

You will not find a more dedicated STEM teacher than Valerie Mosher. A former chemical engineer, Val left corporate employment to focus on teaching. She started at Roper Mountain many years ago as the Outreach Specialist. When the position of STEM Specialist was created, she was a natural fit for the role, and she has been succeeding and exceeding expectations since.

As STEM Specialist, Val is not only teaching hands-on, experiential learning labs to students from all around the state of SC, she is also responsible for developing those lessons to meet the exacting standards of the South Carolina science standards.

Under Val’s leadership, Roper Mountain has completely overhauled and created new exciting story-based content for South Carolina students, including Storm Chaser Engineering, Light Saves the Day, Explorabotics, Spy Academy and more. She has also enhanced our offerings to middle school students with large format assemblies on topics like Way Cool Science (study of matter) and The New Wave (study of energy). She also developed the very popular Power to Survive rotational lesson where up to 150 students in a single day explore what they need to do to survive when the power goes out and communications are down.

Val is also responsible for the installation of a solar panel array on the Symmes building which is used for educational exhibitry showcasing energy efficiency, as well as other exhibits including robotics and infrared technology.

However, Val’s greatest achievements come when she is in front of a classroom. Her passion for her subject and her students is evident. She is a natural communicator with an effective, approachable teaching style.  She models collaboration and creates a fun classroom and atmosphere.  She consistently receives exemplary reviews on her teaching. I could not think of a more deserving SC STEM Educator of the year than Val Mosher.

Suzanna Hall – Kershaw

Mrs. Hall is an amazing teacher!  She inspires her students to learn science by showing them how the content is relevant to their everyday lives.  She also goes above and beyond to make learning fun!  Students in her classes make slime, they build boats to float pennies, and they even drop eggs of the top of the football stadium!  She greets each student with a smile and shows them she cares, not only about their education, but most importantly about them as people.

Latoya Bennett – Charleston

Mrs. Bennett is very passionate about her scholars.  She has a desire to expose and provide a variety of opportunities to the scholars.  Mrs. Bennett is creative and very resourceful.  Her commitment and dedication is clearly visible through the unconditional love that she gives her scholars.

Latoya Bennett – Charleston

She goes above and beyond for her students.  She makes sure they have everything they need to be successful and works towards being ready for the next level.  She makes sure she exposes them to everything possible.  She has written and reviewed many grants.  She works in a small school where the kids have not been exposed to many opportunities.  She makes sure the students get to see new things and has opened their minds to new opportunities.  Her commitment to the kids in the school is above anything I have ever seen in my educational career. 

Melanie Rucker – McCormick

Ms. Rucker is always finding ways to utilize hand-on Stem lessons to reinforce classroom concepts. One of the many ways she does this is by incorporating the school garden in her lessons whenever able. She realizes the importance of getting kids outdoors, working with their hands, and learning about where their food comes from, all the while tying it back in to classroom lessons. She truly cares about all of the students she works with and does her best to ensure they succeed and are excited about science.

Denise Wright – Horry

She goes above and beyond for her students each day. Denise, writes grants, invites guest speakers, and brings the community into her classroom.  She founded Grand Strand Astronomers in our community and she volunteers for NASA.

Doug Adomatis – Greenville Tech Charter

“If I can get them in my classroom, I can make them pilots.” – Doug Adomatis

Doug Adomatis is on a mission to train the next generation of aeronautical engineers, pilots and aviation mechanics. In 2012, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Physics from Georgia Tech and Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary Science from Clemson University, Doug Adomatis changed careers from being in business for himself to teaching others.  His involvement in mentoring disadvantaged youth had shown him how human potential is so easily disenfranchised. Doug knows that “tech prep” is an academic path to success, as he started his career in vocational school. Because people saw Doug’s special potential,  people encouraged him to go on and do more, and because of them, he went on to college and on to start his own business. In every previous position Doug’s held, he has been in some capacity, a mentor, trainer, tutor and guide. Now, as a professional educator, Doug Adomatis is “that person” who encourages others to go on and do more. This is the person that gives back every day on behalf of the people that were behind him.

In the Fall of 2017, Doug Adomatis started the Drone Club at GTCHS to generate student interest in aviation. The following year, fourteen fledgling aviators signed up for Introduction to Aerospace Technology, using the Aviation High School STEM Curriculum developed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Thanks to Doug Adomatis GTCHS is the first and is currently the only high school in South Carolina offering the AOPA curriculum. This school year, seventeen students are enrolled in the 10th grade course. When fully implemented, the AOPA curriculum will be a four-year program.

While the AOPA curriculum is an essential element of the program, GTCHS offers other opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in aviation and engineering through dual credits with Greenville Tech College. Additionally, Doug brings speakers in regularly from the aviation industry to bear witness to the “sky’s the limit” careers waiting for them. Based on our aging population, there will be many openings ahead.  Doug’s enthusiasm has helped form important relationships with Greenville Tech College. Our students take dual enrollment courses, including engineering courses and those in the  Aviation Maintenance Program at Greenville Technical College. Seniors have the option to participate in an aviation-related internship.

Doug is currently working on grants and community support for Exploration Flights.This is an  aviation outreach program to recruit young people into pursuing aviation careers. Exploration Flights use unmanned aerial systems. It’s the bait he is using to hook young minds into STEM. Or as Doug likes to say ”the airplane  is my vehicle for teaching physics.”.

As someone who has an advisory (homeroom) with the same age level of students, I see Doug Adomatis continually influencing students, he is especially effective with students who have a bad home story or other challenges. I’ve seen students change and grow thanks to Doug’s attention and positive message of “let’s work together.”

Doug Adomatis offers a transformative experience for students at Greenville Tech Charter and I am delighted to put his name forward as SC STEM Educator of the Year.

Saretha Lavarnway – Charleston

Saretha teaches 6th grade science concepts through the scientific method. For example, her students learn how a convection current works by creating a convection cell in a clear box using ice, a candle and some incense. They then apply this knowledge to help them understand local and global winds. Another example is they design a roller coaster using pool noodles, tape, paper cups and paper plates to demonstrate kinetic and potential energy. Then they must communicate their understanding of kinetic and potential energy by creating and sharing a video. Students in her classes use a wide variety of technological tools to help them understand various concepts such as creating videos, designing and conducting experiments, analyzing specimens, researching texts and writing both simple conclusions and complex research papers. Saretha’s students are thrilled to try to lift her into the air using a lever or lift cinder blocks with a block and tackle system. Science comes alive in Mrs. Lavarnway’s classroom whether they are learning the mechanics of simple machines or determining the needed essential elements for plant growth. Teams of students learn to work together to design and facilitate experiments throughout the year and communicate their findings. She also organizes experiential field trips. On one such trip the students created an orienteering course for their peers. Other trips allow students to explore animals on the coast up close. Mrs. Lavarnway loves opening her students’ eyes to the world and igniting their curiosity.

Heather Niemi – Charleston

Mrs. Niemi treats each day as a new learning experience for each student. Daily she helps them build their character through expression whether that be written, drawings, technology, or hands on lab experiments. She tries to develop the middle school child into a well adjusted citizen and does so by keeping her standards extremely high and expect them to do the same towards her. Heather loves it when she does not know an answer to their question and they teach her or they research it together.

This year Mrs. Niemi has grown tremendously as an educator and feels her students are getting a better version of her because they are not stressing about a standardized test, but about building and developing content specifically for their needs.The creativity in her classes this year has skyrocketed and the students’ grades reflect it. Currently they are working on a technology project and will move into developing labs in the coming months. Heather wants the kids to help develop and define what/how they learn with the scaffolding of the standards and state requirements. She wants each of her students to come out of her class knowing they learned content, but more importantly they learned how to be a good student and citizen.

Engineering Design Process (EDP) is used daily in her school to further develop and enhance the students’ learning and instruction. This helps them with themes across the school and keeps the kids thinking across curriculums. Some examples are:

-bottle rockets-ELA/MATH/SCIENCE

-egg mobiles (similar to egg drop)

-gutter boats

-balloon powered cars

-mystery tubes–without looking inside, how does the inside work, what does it look like?

-create your own game board/book/project (using all areas of the design process) adding LED lights and battery operated pieces to enhance the project.

-roller coaster (paper and recycled goods)

-Rube Goldberg designs

-solar ovens

-spaghetti and marshmallow tower

-bridges -straws, sticks, pipe cleaners—can yours hold a textbook?

-create your own creature and its fossil

-create telescope-what angles will the mirrors need to be for best results?

-Light mazes—set up a plan of how to get the laser to get through your maze in a matter of only 3-4 mirrors.

-phases of the moon —use everyday items from home to represent each phase and be able to explain it

-plan an investigation that uses models to test why you only see parts of the moon throughout a lunar cycle.

-Walking model of the geologic time scale (create one for solar system)

Mrs. Niemi wants to try:

-Design a device that uses both types of waves (infrared and radio frequencies) and explain how the device works and how it can be used.

-Design a telescope of your own based on what we learned in class (create a budget, size requirements, timeline, etc)

-Develop a plan for an area that floods (due to high tide, flood plain, dam break, snowmelt, etc.) and write a letter to a public office. Explain your opinion, support with factual evidence.

-Design/Develop solar panels that the average person can afford. Where could you go to pitch your ideas? Who could help fund your research, design, development, and production?

Mrs. Niemi is always trying to push herself and her students to be the best they can be.

Beth Owings – Anderson 1

Beth Owings is one of the best teachers I’ve ever been blessed to work with in my 20 year career.Even better, she happens to be our school’s STEM Teacher.Here at Spearman Elementary we believe strongly in the power of a STEM program for all children.When deciding to make a weekly STEM class available for all of our students in Kindergarten-5th grade I had to look no further than Beth Owings as the teacher.Beth was already one of our best homeroom teachers and who was also our school’s “go to”teacher for science information and instructional advice.So making Beth Owings Spearman Elementary’s full-time STEM Teacher 5 years ago has been simply amazing and transformational for our school.She has designed a K5-5th grade STEM Program with a STEM curriculum and a scope and sequence for our school.In her STEM classes she introduces and teaches students coding, robotics, engineering design, problems-based learning, inquiry skills,creative thinking, math and science skills, etc.Mrs. Owings uses STEM to help our students to become creators, thinkers, problem solvers, doers, innovators, and inventors. I have truly noticed that through her STEM program that our students have improved at bringing knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions.I’ve noticed students demonstrating these skills not only in her STEM class but in the other subjects and classes as well.Beth has also been a catalyst for spreading STEM Education throughout our entire school district.She has designed and lead professional development for homeroom teachers throughout the district to help teachers integrate STEM into their regular classrooms.This has been extremely beneficial for schools who do not have a separate STEM class. Mrs. Owings has also lead several district-wide STEM initiatives such as the Cardboard Boat Regatta Challenge.Students, teachers and even administrators take part in designing cardboard boats and paddle across the local YMCA pool.It is has been a blast for several years and it is all directed and lead by Mrs. Owings.Beth has also lead our students to several state STEM competitions, in which our Spearman students have either won or placed.I sincerely feel that through her STEM program our students at Spearman and across our district are better prepared to be college and career ready.Beth is passionate about STEM and about also helping to fulfill the the Profile of the SC Graduate. On a personal note, I have 3 of my own children who get to benefit from Mrs. Owings’ STEM program here at Spearman.They love STEM and it has become their favorite class!I can not think of a better person or teacher more deserving of this award.

Rhonda Henson – Spartanburg 1

Ms. Henson does an incredible job of applying real world situations through integrating robotics and project based learning.  Her willingness to demonstrate the perseverance through failure helps our students to develop resilience. She finds ways to approach standards in a new and exciting way that engages her students.

Dan Schnaars – Greenville

Mr. Schnaars is simply an amazing Engineering teacher who goes consistently above and beyond to provide top of the line engineering equipment and curriculum for the students at WHHS.  He attended 400 hours of training at the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing over the last five years, all related to the engineering program at Wade Hampton High School. He taught Biology at WHHS for 4 years before taking over the Project Lead the Way Pathway to Engineering program and is currently the chair of the Career and Technology Education (CTE) department.  Two years ago, Mr. Schnaars wrote extended curriculum for the PLTW classes so that they could be offered as Honors classes in addition to the CP classes.  His Honors curriculum was accepted and approved through Greenville County Schools and is now available for my son, who is an Honors student all around, as well as other students throughout the district.  Mr. Schnaars has created the largest engineering lab within Greenville County Schools and offers all 5 classes as part of the PLTW program (Intro to Engineering CP/Honors, Principles of Engineering CP/Honors, Computer Science Principles CP [alternative 2nd year class], Computer Integrated Manufacturing Honors, and Engineering Design and Development Honors).  My son began his engineering path in elementary school at AJ Whittenberg School of Engineering, then began PLTW classes at Fisher Middle.  Although those were wonderful foundational skills, Mr. Schnaars expertise, love of engineering, and passion for teaching have increased Nicolas’ skills and love of engineering significantly.  Mr. Schnaars also serves as faculty advisor to the Robotics Team.  When we were initially unsure if my son would be able to take the sophomore level classes as a Freshman, Mr. Schnaars offered to have Nicolas come and spend time with him in the engineering lab after school, before school, or during breaks to keep active with the engineering process.  He greatly deserves STEM teacher of the year!!!!

Tamekah Battle – Palmetto Unified

I nominate this teacher due to her committment to education and the students whose lives have been changed. She is selfless and operates at a standard that attracts students of all backgrounds to her. I have seen her take the hardest of assignments and create programs of study that are beyond innovative and creative norms. She takes the classroom beyond the four walls and progressively drives with a keen knowledge of future trends.

Mr. James Seymore – Richland 1

Mr. Seymore fosters soft skills in his class. He teaches his students to: Be a responsible and contributing citizen and employee. Communicate clearly, effectively, and thoughtfully. Consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of decisions. Be creative and innovative. Use critical thinking to make sense of problems and persist in solving them. Be ethical, show integrity, and manage effectively. Work productively in teams.

Mr. Seymore applies math and science to authentic situations. To work in partnership, he makes intentional math/science connections between their subject areas. What math and science do students need to know for CTE projects? What math and science are students working with in other class projects and how he can reinforce this? Mr. Seymore uses collaboration and joint planning to determine whether students see relevance and connections that strengthen their math and science mastery.

Dale Jacobs – Richland 1

Hands on teacher that incorporates  science, technology, engineering and math into lessons taught in my science classes. The technology use in  class is not just using laptops  the SmartBoard and doing projects, but lessons are authentic and use real world applications that students can relate and be engaged in. Students design models and modify them as they inquire about lessons. For example, anatomy students designed and engineered  mechanical hands that was to pick up an object and if the hands did not pick up anything, the models were modified so it could pick up objects. Once the models were  completed, students used the anatomy of the hand and referred back to their models during the lesson. Vernier equipment is used Biology classes to quickly and accurately collect data so student can graph and interpret their data. In my forensics class, students use trigonometry to interpret blood spatter at mock crime scenes. Science classes are interdisciplinary and science is never taught in isolation.  The method uses to teach  students is very different from the traditional teacher which students love. 

KaReem Beckett – Richland 1

Mr. Beckett is one of the founders of an engineering program called Project REAL.He has continuously taught, supervised, and grown the program for many years.He is a U. S. First Robotics Team Coach, Lead Teacher, Science Department Chair, and Servant Leader.Mr. Beckett and his students have continuously provided community outreach in STEM by hosting free hands-on workshops and demonstrations throughout the midlands.He has also hosted a variety of robotics competitions including the First Lego League Regional.Mr. Beckett goes to middle schools throughout the district in an effort to recruit students into Project REAL to pursue a STEM career path.Many of his former students are working in the STEM field.Outside of school, Mr. Beckett work with community STEM Camps for middle and high school students at It-ology, USC, Allen University, and the Columbia Urban League.He also provides STEM training for teachers in all STEM areas.Some of his teacher workshops include computer science, raspberry pi, wix, environmental engineering, robotics, and google.Mr. Beckett has a great personality and is a master at his craft.He attends on-going professional development and is up to date on the latest trends and research in STEM.Mr. Beckett is an AWESOME selfless STEM teacher who has an genuine interest in increasing the STEM pipeline and empowering teachers.

Rebecca Richardson – Spartanburg 6

As a proud Dorman High School STEM Cohort graduate, Mrs. Rebecca Richardson is one of the individuals I credit my STEM success to. Her passion in teaching AP Chemistry is not only seen through her instruction, but through emphasis on understanding the content as opposed to memorizing it. For instance, Mrs. Richardson would stay well into the evenings (sometimes between 6-7 P.M.) to help me with my AP Chemistry homework. When I could not find an internship for my STEM cohort requirement, she connected me with a fellow student conducting a quadcopter study and offered to serve as my STEM internship mentor during my eleventh grade year. Words cannot begin to express my gratitude for Mrs. Richardson. She help me find my STEM voice and confidence. She propelled my interest into Biochemistry and scientific writing. Today, as a sophomore student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (on a full academic scholarship), I am proud to nominate my awesome STEM teacher, Mrs. Rebecca Richardson.

Timothy Stewart- Florence 2

Tim Stewart is innovative and uses hands on projects to encourage and foster and student centered and creative classroom environment.  He is always willing to help and push his students to be creative and think outside the box.

Douglas Walker – Florence 2

Douglas Walker has taken the teaching of robotics to an exciting new level for students in a rural area.  He is innovative and allows students to gain skills and competencies that business and industries look for in engineers. 

McKenzie Cox – Spartanburg 5

Teaching and STEM is absolutely her passion! Her first teaching position was at a PBL (project based learning) school and she fell in love with the approach. Since then, she’s been planning projects that are centered around STEM. For three years in kindergarten, her students built an entire layout of the Greenville Zoo. It was INCREDIBLE!!! Their job was to problem solve and design better, innovative exhibits for the animals. She’s planned and completed multiple, big STEM projects involving plants and honey bees. Every Friday her class sees their STEM buddies. She partners with a fourth grade teacher and each week they complete STEM based learning experiences and projects. This month alone they’ve created slime and floats. They completed a community project where they built a city and integrated arrays from math. Fridays are their favorite day of the week because of STEM buddies. The collaboration between the second and fourth graders is incredible! She also just completed her first year as a robotics coach! She got to monitor, encourage, and problem solve with kids who are coding and programming robots. Last weekend they had attended a huge competition and one of their teams won the robot programming trophy. She believes integrating STEM in the classroom is a best practice for our 21st century learners. She frequently says, “Our approach towards teaching must change if we desire to prepare our students for the future. Integrating science, technology, engineering, and math will always be a priority in my classroom!” She is so deserving of this award and I would be thrilled to see her hard work rewarded.

Debbie Rowell – Lancaster

Uses real-world lessons to show my students the future of law enforcement