Regional K-12 STEM Teachers Recognized for Education Excellence

Twenty K-12 teachers in six Michigan counties will see a boost to their STEM education budgets thanks to the STEM Center at Saginaw Valley State University and the MiSTEM Network – East Central Michigan Region.

The educators were named “STEM Stars” in honor of their hard work, dedication and contributions to education in science, technology, engineering and math. They were recognized at an event Tuesday, February 22 at SVSU. Each recipient received a $250 award to benefit STEM education in his or her classroom or program, as well as a 3D-printed keepsake designed by Cardinal Solutions at SVSU and produced by the SVSU Independent Testing Laboratory.

Award winners were selected from a pool more than 40 nominees. The 2022 STEM Stars represent schools in Arenac, Bay, Clare, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties.


Here is the list of award winners:

Stephanie Baarck, teacher, St. Lorenz Lutheran School, Frankenmuth 

 Because of her love of science and her desire to foster that love in her students, Stephanie gave her own time ― countless hours ― to develop and grow Science Olympiad program for several years at St. Lorenz. Those students who participated went on to high school and were successful in those programs because of the foundation Stephanie helped to build.  

Christine Brillhart, science teacher, Jefferson Middle School, Midland 

 Not only is Christine a fantastic science teacher, she supervises multiple after school STEM-related clubs. She involves students at all middle school grade and ability levels. Christine also supervises our Chief Science Officers. The countless hours she puts in has a huge impact on the students and our school. She is an inspiration to those students with an interest in STEM.  

Jennifer Courtright, 4th grade teacher and coach, Beal City Public Schools, Mt. Pleasant

 Ms. Courtright teaches 4th grade and also runs our robotics club/LEGO® League which I have gotten to witness close up as my son is not only in her class but on the team. The amount of time dedicated to these kids is amazing! She is truly passionate about STEM both in her daily teaching and in coaching.  

Jodi Decuf, STEAM teacher, MacGregor Elementary, Bay City

 Mrs. Decuf is constantly looking for new ideas, skills and concepts to teach her students. Mrs. Decuf makes learning fun for all of our MacGregor students, with STEAM challenges that have included development of ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) that students test underwater in Handy’s pool, rollercoaster challenges, and the addition of hydroponic gardens at MacGregor.  

Andy Frisch, science teacher, Farwell High School, Farwell

 Mr. Andrew Frisch has dedicated 100s of hours outside of the classroom to bring STEM education into high school classrooms, not only his but many throughout the state of Michigan. Farwell Area schools is a small rural district in central Michigan; we do not have a lot of resources. So it is truly great how Mr. Frisch has gone out of his way not only to become informed on STEM practices, and then to become such a valuable resource about it. 

April Frost, science teacher, Farwell Middle School, Farwell

 April has been an avid leader in the field of STEM. As a science teacher, she has always encouraged students to be hands-on learners and has provided them with a variety of tasks that force them to apply their understanding, rather than simply memorize. April is continually looking for ways to make students think outside the box and she always finds ways for kids to get involved and feel a part of things.  

Jessica Good, STEM teacher, Christa McAuliffe Middle School, Bangor Township

 Jessica is a STEM Star because she rocks every part of STEM! She provides students with a wide variety of hands-on experiences to help students experience STEM not just hear about it. She uses every opportunity in and out of the classroom to promote STEM. She is an asset to STEM education and deserves recognition! 

Melissa Grunder, teacher/FIRST coordinator, Siebert Elementary School, Midland 

 As the FIRST Coordinator for Siebert Elementary, Melissa has enabled the ability to motivate both upper elementary and lower elementary students in STEM. Melissa’s program is a model for how a FIRST program should run at an elementary school and many of the practices at her school have been established in our other schools.  

Tim Hall, science and electronics teacher, Robotics Coach, Handy Middle School, Bay City

 The most impressive of Tim’s teaching ability is his demeanor with students.  Tim is able to present information on a wide variety of subjects while projecting a composed presence, a great sense of humor, and maintaining a positive classroom environment. His students truly respect him! He also spends a huge amount of time volunteering for the robotics team, planning science nights, and planning for elective courses.  

Deb Kanine, tech lab/computer teacher, Shepherd Public School

 Deb Kanine has revamped her entire K-5 computer curriculum for elementary computer special from being based around computer skills to STEM based. She has integrated coding and multiple other STEM activities that give all of our students experiences and exposure to STEM curriculum and learning.  

Jessi Koehler, STEM teacher, Freeland Learning Center and Freeland Elementary, Freeland

 Mrs. Koehler is an exceptional STEM teacher who during the restrictions created by the pandemic created and outdoor classroom to continue to give her students opportunities to collaborate and engage in hands-on activities. She continually reinvents and enhances her classroom environment to expose her students to various STEM topics and challenges. She sets high expectations for her students and they work hard in her class to achieve success. Her creativity and thinking outside the box allow for all students to find ways to grow and push themselves to grow. 

Dana Lockwood, business teacher, Hemlock High School, Hemlock

 Dana Lockwood has worked tirelessly reaching out to local businesses to raise funding dollars for the brand new Lockwood STEM Center which provides advanced STEM learning opportunities to the students of Hemlock and 4 other local school districts: Freeland, St. Charles, Merrill, and Swan Valley. Also, Dana is one of the lead mentors for the Hemlock High School robotics program and continues to encourage all students to get involved in the robotics programs. 

Ashley Morgan, chemistry teacher, Frankenmuth High School, Frankenmuth

 Ms. Morgan is a STEM Star because she makes learning chemistry an active pursuit, going above and beyond to engage the learner, regardless of the challenges faced when doing so. Ms. Morgan utilizes interactive notebooks and numerous instructional strategies while teaching chemistry, but the most engaging aspect of this class ― like many science classes ― is laboratory experimentation. Last year when groupwork and labs became problematic, Ms. Morgan went to work, developing ways to provide individual lab kits for each student as not to require the sharing of equipment or close proximity of partner work.  

Charlie Lalonde, math teacher, robotics coach, Western Middle School, Bay City

 Mr. Lalonde works to inspire the spark for robotics in his coding class. He also teaches math for our 8th grade students. In addition, he coaches the WMS robotics team. He puts in countless hours working with students. He also recently has worked on creating a robotics club to further grow his program. Mr. Lalonde, his leadership and personality, is why our robotics program is so successful. We are so lucky to have this STEM Star in our building! 

Daniel Seefeld, STEM and PE teacher, Larson Elementary, Harrison

 Mr. Seefeld plans engaging STEM activities for grade levels 3-5. For example, boat building, rocket launching, and even paper airplanes! During the pandemic, he created videos for kids to try at home, including a “comeback can.” He interacted with them over Google Meet forums and even parents got involved in some of the creations. Dan’s STEM (STEAM) classes are always engaging, and the onus of work falls with the students. He is the ultimate coach, facilitating students in analyzing information, expanding and exploring their ideas, and he supports them through the design process at a differentiated pace.  

Tracy Stoldt, math and science teacher, Au Gres-Sims Middle and High School, Au Gres

 Tracy Stoldt makes a point to keep STEM going in our schools. He actively gives his time to after-school clubs, even for younger elementary students through LEGO Robotics Club. His hope is to grow interest again after clubs were delayed due to Covid. He runs a Robotics Club and teaches a new coding class to all 7th grade students. He hopes that with the increased need for creators in the STEM field that he can invoke an interest in students at a young age and then keep them learning through high school clubs and physics class. 

Lori Vacik, reading and science teacher, Robert B. Havens Elementary, Thomas Township

 Lori is an amazing teacher. She creates, and presents, learning opportunities to students beyond the textbook. She looks for resources to engage students such as guest speakers, field trips, and interactive simulations. In the classroom she provides hands-on opportunities for her students. Students are able to learn through exploration.  

Randi Watchorn, science teacher, Marshall Greene Middle School, Birch Run

 Randi is an incredible teacher. During her enrichment time she plans hands-on STEM activities for students to experience. The students love the activities and talk about them for years! Some of the activities she has used are marshmallow catapults, egg cars and penny bridges. She is always trying to incorporate fun and hands on activities within her science and enrichment curriculums.  

Gwen Windiate, science teacher, Christa McAuliffe Middle School, Bangor Township

 Gwen has gone above and beyond teaching the MiStar science program at CMMS since it was founded. In the past two years she has modified a very hands-on program to be effective for students to learn during remote learning, and is now tasked with coaching me in my first year through the program. Gwen is kind, generous, and always puts her students’ learning first.  

Kristi Weber, STEM teacher, Jessie Rouse Elementary and Arthur Eddy Academy, Saginaw

 Mrs. Weber brings fun, curiosity, and excitement to her STEM classes at Jessie Rouse and Arthur Eddy. She is constantly bringing new ideas and learning opportunities to the students. She works with the district team to choose materials and lessons that are engaging for all students in K-6. Mrs. Weber continues to be a STEM Star for all of her students.