Minnesota STEM educators celebrated

Published 9:13 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

In a time when five generations of people are teaching in local schools, educators who think differently to deliver engaging experiences and inspire students are needed more than ever and were publicly celebrated at the Outstanding Educator Awards, according to a press release. Southeast Service Cooperative’s STEM Forward collaborative celebrated nine outstanding STEM educators who have adjusted their approach to teaching to meet Generation Z and Alpha students in the context of the world they know and showcased their work to the community.

“Students’ context and perception of the world is different than yours and mine. They have had different social experiences shape the view of their world. What was common sense to you and me is not their common sense today. I need to meet them where they are and provide the content in a way they can understand with their own knowledge base,” said Angela Heitmann, an Outstanding Educator Award winner from Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools. “Their experiences or things they’ve been through influence what is relevant to them, so utilizing that and then give them new experiences that can help them learn and acquire skills for the future. I really want them to think their way through biology material but really anything.”  

Outstanding Educator Award winners Heitmann and Burke Egner from Albert Lea Area Schools and nominees John Bartucz, Rochester Public Schools; Paula Braun, Dover-Eyota Public Schools; Dan Devine, Rochester Public Schools; Katie Donlin, Byron Public Schools;  Nate Pfeilsticker, Plainview-Elgin-Millville Public Schools; Alison Rumpca, Red Wing Public Schools; and Art Trimble, Rochester Public Schools, were honored at the Outstanding Educator Awards dinner Wednesday at Castle Community, hosted by STEM Forward and Mayo Clinic.

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The educators are celebrated for building strong foundations in science, technology, engineering and math literacy, increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM, building computational literacy and preparing the STEM workforce for the future, according to the release.

“It is our job as educators to prepare students to work and excel in fields that do not currently exist and in emerging technologies that include Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and the connected lifestyles from Internet of Things enabled objects,” Egner said.

Educators like Heitmann and Egner and 80 community members of the 11 southeast counties of Minnesota gathered to celebrate and champion innovative education delivery models in elementary, middle and high schools. STEM Forward welcomes the community to continue to have conversations around STEM education, the release stated.

“If you or your organization has a vested interest in STEM or in the future workforce, there is room for you at the STEM Forward table. Join us in participation in our collaborative, formal or informal partnership, get on the free web portal,  FutureForward, that connects employers to educators and students in career-connected learning to students, or make a short STEM talk video that shares innovative, informative or inspiring ideas centered around STEM to share with our community,” said Sarah Ness, program manager of STEM Forward. “Be part of the conversation in any capacity that fits your availability.”