By: Ann Gritzner, instructional coach and teacher at Central Community High School
Each year, the Iowa STEM Teacher Award, sponsored by Kemin Industries, honors six STEM educators from across the state for their work to create engaging curriculum and inspire a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics among their students.
As an educator and a previous award recipient, I want to highlight what a nomination can mean for a teacher and the impact it can make in their classroom and in their career.
I have been a science teacher at Central Community Schools in Elkader, Iowa for 28 years. I have taught eighth grade to 12th grade students. I focus on life sciences, with anatomy and physiology being one of my most popular classes. I was nominated for the 2019 Iowa STEM Teacher Award in the fall of 2018 and received the northeast region award in early 2019.
At the time awards were announced, I was returning from an international trip. I remember seeing recipients in other Iowa STEM regions announced. When I didn’t see anything from northeast Iowa, I figured one of the other teachers nominated had won. Instead, I was surprised with a ceremony at my school. That day and this award changed my career—and that’s why I am encouraging others to nominate the educators in their lives.
Reflecting on the process, I was so flattered to have been nominated. To know that someone in my community recognized my work meant so much. Educators are rarely recognized outside their schools or districts, so a nomination for an award like this means quite a bit.
You can create that feeling for an Iowa teacher with a nomination. A parent of one of my students nominated me, but anyone can create a nomination—from administrators, fellow teachers or students to work-based learning partners and community members. It only takes a few minutes to complete, but it can make a lasting impact.
Once a teacher is nominated, they must fill out an application to be nominated. While there are always demands on educators’ time, I highly encourage all those nominated to apply. As educators, we don’t often get to take a step back and reflect on all that we have accomplished and the professional growth we have created over time. This award—and any other award—offer that opportunity.
If you are nominated and need some tips, I recommend thinking about the resources you can include during the process. You can use video, which offers you the opportunity to tell your story in a variety of ways. You can also include things likes lesson plans, reports or photos. These all add to your nomination and tell reviewers more about your process.
However, more than anything else, this award is a great opportunity to connect with the network of the Iowa STEM Council. With the Iowa STEM Teacher Award and the STEM BEST award I received around the same time, I met people passionate about STEM that changed the trajectory of my career and revitalized my teaching.
You have until October 10 to nominate a teacher and offer them the chance to show how important their work is.