2017 STEM Educator Award Winners

A spotlight on the 2017 winners and highlights from their submissions.

Teachers dedicated to making a difference.

A company dedicated to giving them the best tools to do so.

Getting to meet with science, engineering and technology teachers always provides the best reminder of why we do what we do. When innovative and passionate teachers tell us about the different and often novel ways they use our probeware and lab equipment it makes us proud to feel that we played a small part in increasing STEM education in the classroom and beyond.  

A number of years ago we partnered with NSTA to showcase such teachers with our STEM Educator awards. Below is a brief summary of the winners and their entries for the 2016 awards.

We also hope that our new line of low cost and innovative wireless sensors along with the free SPARKvue apps for classroom devices will make it possible for even more classrooms to utilize cutting edge sensing technology and data collection and analysis software as part of their approach to STEM learning. 

View the application for the PASCO STEM Educator Awards

High School Winner

Shannon Sahabi
Science Teacher
Tom C. Clark High School
San Antonio, TX

The number one goal Shannon Sahabi for every classroom is for her to form a meaningful relationship with each and every student.

She also strives to engage those students in STEM who have been traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, particularly girls, Hispanics, and African Americans.

Many of her students have majored in engineering, environmental, or other geosciences in college because of taking her course. Shannon wants them to be able to recognize and perform sound science practices as well as connections between the sciences.

She teaches Earth & Space (ESS), AP Environmental Science (APES), and Environmental Systems. These classes address the wide variety of learning abilities daily, as she teaches “regular” level, Advanced Placement (AP) and special education.

Students never have to ask, “How is this relevant?” or “why do I need to know this?” The geosciences are part of everyday life and she relates topics to real-world issues, current events, and future concerns.

Shannon works to address all students’ modes of learning, so they are given a survey at the beginning of the year to identify their learning styles.She has recorded video lectures that students can access at any time – they have been viewed thousands of times by students around the world!

She tries to incorporate technology as often as possible. For APES, her classes use several sensor probes such as conductivity, soil moisture, and UV. For the water quality unit, students build ecobottles with a fish with elodea and duckweed in the aquatic half, and plants, crickets, and earthworms in the top half. The object of the 6-week lab is to measure water quality of an ecosystem and write qualitative observations of biogeochemical cycles.

Students measure quality indicators such as nitrates, ammonia, and chlorine with test strips and use sensors to measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH and then analyze their data

Her students also do a few virtual labs such as planetary motion, earthquake epicenter locations, population biology to simulate the competitive exclusion principle, and energy used between trophic levels.

My goals are to create significant and authentic learning experiences that connect to the students through technology, inquiry-based labs, project-based learning, argument driven inquiry, global collaborations, and development of 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication"

Shannon Sahabi

High School Winner

Steve Sogo
Chemistry Teacher
Laguna Beach, CA

Steve Sogo has been a chemistry teacher for over 26 years, the last 16 of which have been at Laguna Beach High School.

Ten years ago he initiated the Advanced Chemical Research (ACR) that has become a model for project-based STEM education. ACR engages 11th and 12th grade students in authentic research projects on the cutting edge of science. The program has been honored with a Golden Bell Award by the California School Boards Association, and is featured as a chapter in The Power and Promise and Early Research, soon-to-be published by the American Chemical Society.

While originally created as a chemistry course, ACR has incorporated more and more engineering and now includes multi-year projects addressing real world issues.

Some of their past projects have included:

  • Creation of a synthetic antivenom that neutralizes cobra toxins
  • Development of an electrochemical sensor to measure bacterial contamination
  • Creating nanoparticles that can protect therapeutic peptides from destruction by proteases
  • Building a water sterilizer that rapidly kills microorganisms using focused solar UV radiation.

Survey data reveal that ACR alumni are highly successful as they pursue STEM careers in college (and beyond). Alumni state that their project-based learning experiences put them far ahead of their peers in college-level science courses and it is easy to see why. When students are engaged and thinking like scientists and engineers to combat real world problems their connection to what they learn will be deeper and longer lasting.

Steve was also the lead writer for "The Chemistry of Cars" project sponsored by AACT

"Advanced Chemical Research (ACR)  provides students with hands-on learning experiences incorporating technology on a daily basis."

Steve Sogo

Middle School Winner

Brian Soash
Science Teacher and STEM program coordinator 
Lee County Middle School West
Leesburg, GA

Brian Soash made the decision to make his STEM program one that involved the community and real solutions to real problems.

While that has led to a lot of long grading nights, grant writing and conversations with community partners, the gain his students have made in their STEM education makes it all worth it. 

Each of his units is designed as a project based learning experience where the students are working for a specific “client” and purpose in mind. Google Slide virtual notebooks are provided for students to document their work and data. Each student finishes the project with a conclusion using data and observations to prove the validity of the solution. His students have used temperature and light probes, 3D printers, and scales to collect every shred of evidence along the way to support their work.

Students have explored the issue of bird strikes by creating simulated robins, which they launched at windows using a pitching machine to determine the force upon impact and the survivability of these impacts. They tested soil on a local golf course to make recommendations on the type of turf that should be used on their driving range. We’ve also created green roofs to control the Urban Heat Island effect and electronic devices to share at a community investor fair. 

In addition, students redesigned habitats for a local zoo. The list goes on and on, but one thing remains the same: Everything they do is with a purpose to collect data, isolate variables, refine, and re-test. 

Students process and use the information available to them in organic ways.Engineering process standards and depth of knowledge get addressed within the standards as students create, test, and analyze their solutions with real professionals. As students improve, they’re able to keep pace with the changes intheir future careers by preparing with critical thinking skills shared by the same experts they hope to someday become.

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"In my eyes, STEM in the classroom is an embodiment of real life. It isn't isolation of content knowledge; instead it is the co-mingling of ideas and the ability to apply a mixture of knowledge to any problem presented."

Brian Soash