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Local educators honored for commitment to STEM education
May 18, 2023
LANSING, Mich. — The MiSTEM Network team in region 13 – covering northwestern Michigan – partnered with Northwest Michigan Works! to recognize local educators for their commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics at their second annual STEM Stars Celebration united community members, businesses and other STEM education advocates to empower educators.
“STEM Stars and our local partners across the state are vital to creating a vibrant STEM ecosystem and growing Michigan’s workforce,” said Megan Schrauben, MiSTEM Network Executive Director. “With support from education and business partners, the MiSTEM Network empowers educators and provides resources that help students across the state pursue high-wage, high-demand STEM careers.”
During the April 25 STEM Stars Celebration, MiSTEM recognized five educators in the region who were nominated by their peers, students, parents or community members for their commitment to STEM education.
The following educators received a STEM Star Award, certificate of recognition and a $250 classroom stipend:
- Ben O'Neil of Glen Lake Community Schools for consistently and creatively making time to ensure young students have STEM opportunities.
- Meghan Arbury of Suttons Bay Public Schools for incorporating meaningful science and math activities into her classroom.
- Debbie Oliver of Northwest Education Services Career Tech Engineering Academy for founding the Engineering Academy and being instrumental in shaping an inclusive and supporting student culture among high-level curricula.
- Chris Vandergriff of Bellaire Public Schools for being a dedicated teacher who brings science to life in and outside of the classroom.
- Nancy Olenchek of Kingsley Area Schools for developing new courses that help students excel and prepares them for a research-based STEM career.
"STEM Stars educators are a celebration of the fantastic educators we have within the Northwestern Lower MiSTEM Network region,” said Drea Weiner, MiSTEM Region 13 Director. “They are vital to the STEM education community as they are the front end of the workforce development pipeline to elevate why STEM is a viable career for our students. We are grateful for our wonderful partners Northwest MI Works and 20Fathoms who see the connection to education as the full scope of high-demand, high-wage jobs within our community."
MiSTEM worked closely with Northwest Michigan Works! Business Services to identify sponsors of the classroom stipend grants that will help prepare talent to fill in-demand careers in their community. Northwest Michigan Works! was also the video sponsor for the event.
“Seeing people recognized for the great work they do is always a joy,” said Susan Ward, Youth Services Regional Director for Northwest Michigan Works!. “Northwest Michigan Works! is happy to partner with the MiSTEM Network to highlight the STEM Stars in our region.”
Attendees networked, celebrated and discussed local education and workforce opportunities. Learning stations with conversation starter cards were available throughout the event to spark discussion on the intersection of workforce needs and STEM education.
Traverse City-based tech startup incubator 20Fathoms hosted the event, providing their community workspace.
“20Fathoms was honored to host the STEM Stars Celebration recognizing outstanding educators in our region,” said Gretchen Swanson, Director of Workforce Development at 20Fathoms. “MiSTEM has been critical to us better understanding and amplifying the valuable work of educators and in turn we have fostered community partnerships that advance STEM education and talent retention.”
STEM Star awards are supported by funds from the MiSTEM Network and local businesses. The program is open to all K-12 educators who serve students within Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau Counties. A STEM Star may be a K-12 classroom teacher, robotics coach, STEM coordinator, or another staff member who makes incredible contributions to STEM education.
Nominations for 2023-2024 will open in August. Businesses and organizations that would like to sponsor the initiative can visit the MiSTEM Region 13 website to learn more.
Pictured left to right: Chris Vandergriff, Drea Weiner, Debby Oliver, Ben O'Neil, Nancy Olenchek, Meghan Arbruy