2017 I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award Recipients

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

The a panel of judges selected the recipients of the 2017 I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award, including:

Northwest STEM Region

Keith Juelfs, a fifth-grade teacher at Morningside Elementary STEM School in Sioux City, attended the Space Academy for Educators at the NASA Space Camp in Alabama, and since his experience, has created an opportunity for his students to Skype with an engineer and astronaut from NASA to talk about space survival. His classroom collaborates with the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum in Boston through Skype to bring technology into history reenactments (as well as with the New England Aquarium to monitor alligator and shark interactions). Keith co-created the STEM Club at Morningside, where fifth and second-graders partner for STEM learning.

North Central Region

Benjamin Jass, an industrial technology teacher at Webster City High School in Webster City, pioneered Webster City’s Project Lead The Way as part of the 2016-17 STEM Scale-Up Program. He partners with Iowa Central Community College to provide college credit opportunities for his students, as well as participation in Iowa Central Competition Day. He also partners with fellow Webster City teachers to bring building project needs and ideas to his students—one of his students built a scooter for an adaptive physical education class. He is known in his school for his extraordinary relationships with his students and his humble passion for the success of his classroom.

Northeast Region

Chelsie Slaba, a science teacher at Dike-New Hartford High School in Dike, started the FIRST Robotics Team at Dike-New Hartford and sponsors the Outdoor Adventure and Science Club that planted 30 trees in the city of Dike last year. She collaborates with many community partners to bring guests to her classroom for educational perspectives, such as: tattoo artists, dieticians, DNR officers, Kemin employees, John Deere engineers and students from the University of Northern Iowa. Her Advanced Chemistry class has partnered with the University of Kansas to tag and gather research on monarch migration, as well as with Landus Corporation to conduct soil samples and test for nutrients in water sources.

Southwest Region

Brett Roberts, sixth-grade science teacher and Ten80 coach at Shenandoah Middle School in Shenandoah, received an award through the STEM Scale-Up Program award for Shenandoah Middle School. From there, he created classes on Exploration of Science and Ten80 Racing where his Ten80 Racing course allows his students to work with interdisciplinary methods to build and race model cars. In the 2015-16 school year, his Ten80 team competed in the National Championship in Orlando, Florida, receiving various awards across the board in data-driven design, race points and speed. He has also received Making STEM Connections and Engineering is Elementary through the STEM Scale-Up Program.

South Central Region

Heather Anderson, second-grade teacher at Grant Ragan Elementary School in Waukee, has written and received 28 different STEM-related grants and has received four awards through the STEM Scale-Up Program. She was the first elementary school teacher to participate in the Iowa STEM Teacher Externship program, partnering with the State of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory last summer. There is a Makerspace in her classroom where she encourages students to bring parts of materials to class to examine how things are made. Her bristle-bot honeybee construction unit is a favorite amongst her students. She has participated in the National Summer Institute in Japan and the NEAF Global Learning Fellowship in Peru. She was the recipient of the 2015 NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence on a national level and sits on the Des Moines Public School Board.

Southeast Region

Gregory Smith, industrial technology teacher at Davenport West High School in Davenport, was recognized as the 2014 QCESC STEM Teacher of the Year and as the 2015 Young Educator of the year by the Jaycees of the Quad Cities. He also serves on the Project Lead The Way Advisory Board at Davenport West and has participated in the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program. He was instrumental in creating Davenport West’s INSPIRE Capstone program where he leads the Advanced Manufacturing pathway and assists with the Engineering pathway through Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) curriculum. He created the FIRST Teach Challenge Robotics team in 2012 at Davenport West, and his team, the Combustible Lemons, participated in the North Super-Regional from 2014-2016 and the World Championship in 2013 and 2015. His team also collected and repurposed 23 NXT kits to introduce Project Based Learning to nearly 1,000 Kenyan students.