ETA hand2mind Congratulates 2017 Illinois STEM Educator Award Winners

Winners are Gretchen Brinza, Chicago, and Mike Jones, Normal

Vernon Hills, Illinois: hand2mind is proud to join with the Illinois Science Teachers Association (ISTA) and the Illinois Council of Teacher of Mathematics (ICTM) in congratulating the winners of the 2017 Illinois STEM Educator Award:

  • Grades K-5: Gretchen Brinza, Alcott College Prep, Chicago
  • Grades 6-8: Mike Jones, Thomas Metcalf School, Normal

This award recognizes the extraordinary achievements in K-8 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) teaching in Illinois. The winners will be recognized at ISTA’s 2017 Illinois Science Education Conference being held in DeKalb on October 27 and 28. Each winner receives:

  • $1,000 check
  • $1,500 hand2mind gift card
  • Complimentary registration to the 2017 Illinois Science Education Conference
  • Complimentary 1-year registration to ISTA or ICTM

Gretchen Brinza teaches 5th and 6th grade science at Alcott College Prep in Chicago. Through phenomena-based learning, she and her students engage in meaningful projects that go beyond science and engineering to also incorporate rich technology (such as 3D printers and computerized drawing) and mathematics. In celebration of National Engineers Week 2017, Gretchen’s 5th graders built windmills, and as part of their data unit, compared costs and the amount of weight each design could lift. Her 6th graders built hydraulic judo bots with a focus on understanding how the properties of matter affected the design of their bots.

Mike Jones is a middle school science teacher at Thomas Metcalf School in Normal. Mike starts his units with phenomena for students to wonder about so they’ll be inspired to pose questions and/or identify problems to solve. His lesson topics include: where have all the fish gone; how does a magnet work; are our food and water safe? Mike encourages his students to explore and learn outside the classroom and includes outdoor educational experiences in order to examine topics that aren’t easily accessible in the classroom.

A total of 26 applications were received—14 elementary school and 12 middle school. After careful review, the judging committee felt these two applicants best met the five criteria for the award:

    • Originality of activities
    • Incorporation of engineering design practices
    • Integration of multiple STEM areas
    • Innovation in their hands-on lessons
    • Support of school administration

The judges also felt it was important that the two winners share their knowledge and activities beyond their own classrooms and are doing work throughout the state.

In addition, nine finalists were also recognized. The elementary school finalists were: Jennifer Vujanovic, Maercker Intermediate School, Westmont; Joyce Anderson, Richland County Elementary School, Olney; Dr. James O’Malley, Edison Elementary School, Morton Grove; Brandon Rutherford, Stratton Elementary School, Champaign; and Mary Ann Lukas, . The middle school finalists were: Jennifer McBride, ; Ben Klecamp, Prairie Central Junior High School, Towanda; Marcy Buchanan, Woodstock Middle School, Woodstock; and Erika Meyers, Lakeview Junior High School, Darien.

About hand2mind
At hand2mind, we believe that children learn by doing. Our mission is to empower teachers, inspire students, and engage minds. A privately held company with more than 50 years of experience in education, hand2mind’s hands-on learning solutions for math, science, STEM, and literacy are unique in the marketplace—covering manipulatives, lessons, teacher/parent support materials and more. We’re always on the lookout for new ways to tap into students’ natural curiosity and spark an interactive learning process.