Announcing the Missouri STEM Educator Innovator Awardees

On November 20, ten of Missouri’s top K-12 educators who exemplify using innovative techniques to teach and inspire students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields were recognized by the Missouri Mathematics and Science Coalition and the Monsanto Company.

teachersThrough this program, the Missouri Mathematics and Science Coalition, an affiliate of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recognized innovation by K-12 educators. Each award winner received a $2,000 award at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet on November 20, 2014. The awards can be used by the educators to support their STEM teaching efforts.

“Teachers deserve to be celebrated – especially those that are committed to innovation in teaching and learning,” said Deborah Patterson, president of the Monsanto Fund. “These are the memorable teachers, the ones that inspire and encourage our young people to pursue STEM careers.”

A reoccurring theme emerged among the awardees, they pushed the resources that they had available to them to their limits and consistently looked for new ways to engage students. Many reached out to professionals within their communities to help with a project, deliver a class or discuss career opportunities in STEM fields.

But what does learning look like for students attending classes with these top 10 STEM educators?

For Blue Springs High School students that means having biomedical science teacher, Pattie Balano challenge them each day by either taking field trips to area hospitals and healthcare centers or by routinely having a variety of various healthcare professionals come into the classroom to discuss career pathways or cutting edge medicine being used to treat sickness and disease. Over the years this type of experiential learning has transformed into service learning projects that Balano has developed.

Recently, Balano took a group of her senior biomedical students to Brazil to provide medical care to those in need along the Amazon River.

For Fayette High School students this means having high school bio / chem teacher and STEM Educator Innovator, Cana Conrow take an integrated, project based learning approach using Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Conrow issued the book to every student at the beginning of the semester and used the story of Henrietta Lacks, as a way to immerse students in biomedical research, while at the same time touching on ethical and social economic issues. As Conrow stated in her application the goal of the class was to employ “problem-based inquiry to better understand science (biology), medical and bio-ethics, other cultures, literature, language and writing skills.”

For elementary students at John Thomas School of Discovery in Nixa, MO this means elementary teacher, Garrett Lowder, this means in the first few weeks of school learning what makes a good scientist and the process for scientific inquiry. Lowder will continue to impress upon these young boys and girls throughout the course of the year that they are scientists when they engage in project based learning.

Whether that is learning about ecosystems or erosion issues, students are expected to work collaboratively to identify a problem and then construct a solution to meet that problem.

As you can imagine, students that have Balano, Conrow, Lowder, or any of these award winning educators, are being challenged and educated in ways that transcend the typical science class of days past. These innovators in the classroom are truly engaging and preparing them, regardless of age, interest level or social upbringing to be better informed and bettered prepared for the world around them.

“Whenever we can recognize and honor educators for innovative practices in the classroom we need to do so,” said Brian Crouse, Vice President of Education at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “STEM educators are some of the most creative and innovative professionals that we have in the state and they dedicate themselves to guiding our future generation of thinkers, scientists, engineers, doctors, astronauts and inventors.”

For details on the award program or more information on the 10 awardees, please visit the Missouri Mathematics and Science Coalition website at:

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