2022 Georgia STEM Scholar Award Recipients


2022 Georgia STEM Scholars

Thank you for joining GYSTC as we honor 23 recipients of our coveted 2022 Georgia STEM Scholar Awards. This outstanding group of educators was chosen for their thoughtful engagement with their students which, over the last year, resulted in imaginative classroom lessons that taught and support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. As parents, employers and citizens we hope all our teachers are competent, enthusiastic and caring. Our awardees certainly meet and exceed these basic criteria. But what sets them apart and what they are being cited for in these awards are two key factors.

First, they have shown a special aptitude for identifying the unique strengths and potential of their students and have conceived and executed classroom lessons that tap that promise. They have engaged and excited their students’ capacity to learn and build confidence – not only in their ability to master STEM, but to master lessons of successful living.

Second, our recipients also launched student projects whose impact reached past the classroom to involve their entire school community, parents, colleagues, and regional leaders who are STEM professionals and supporters.

Our recipients are winners! Winners for their students. Winners for their communities. Winners for our state, and winners for the teaching profession. They exemplify everything we want and hope our teachers will be. It is our duty and delight to honor them!


Amanda Buice

GYSTC Executive Director


Mr. James Conaway

Bartow County Schools, Red Top Middle School

“Coding in the Garden”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Mr. Conaway began by introducing his students to coding through a game-based learning program.  Then, he challenged them to create their own projects using Arduino products.  Students built moisture sensors to use in the school’s garden to prevent overwatering and save the school money.  This has expanded to include the Farmbot.io where students are currently investigating electric fence technology to safely eliminate weeds using a small amount of electricity.

Impact Initiative

In 2020, Mr. Conaway founded and coached an after-school LEGO Robotics Team for his school.  This year, he expanded and added another team.  In 2022, he plans to add another team for underwater robotics that will be competing against Georgia Southern in Savannah.  Mr. Conaway has become an exemplar teacher in robotics not only for his school but for his district as well.

Mrs. Jennifer Martin

Bartow County Schools, White Elementary School

“Garden-Based STEM”

STEM Classroom Lesson

For the past two years, Mrs. Martin has used garden-based STEM projects with her ESOL students to help them gain confidence, language, science, and math skills.  Students were presented with problems concerning pest control, overgrowth development, pollution, erosion, and pollination issues to explore and problem-solve.  The garden-based STEM project grew beyond Mrs. Martin’s ESOL students and became school-wide.  After students researched plants that would benefit a butterfly garden, students were able to design and develop a large butterfly garden that butterflies would stay in during each part of their life cycle; because of this project the school participated in the Georgia pollination census.

Impact Initiative

In conjunction with her garden-based STEM projects, Mrs. Martin co-sponsors the Warrior Sprouts Garden Club.  This club of third through fifth-grade students meets before school and keeps the grounds of the garden ready for the school to enjoy.  This club has been crucial in forming partnerships with local master gardeners and the UGA Extension Office in Bartow County.  Mrs. Martin also serves on the White Elementary School’s STEM sub-committee and helps her colleagues develop STEM lessons for their classrooms.


Miss Victoria Williams

Bartow County Schools, Adairsville Elementary School

“Learning from History”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Williams' students started looking for answers on how to save a beloved town playground by learning about the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Local experts were brought in to provide information on constructive and destructive forces. Then, students created a model of the creekbank with a solution to control the erosion caused by heavy rains and flooding using natural materials within a set budget. Students were given an opportunity to showcase their designs and reflect on any improvements needed to their model.

Impact Initiative

Ms. Williams helped organize a student-led STEM-focused community event. Students from each fourth-grade homeroom were chosen to represent each class and helped plan and run the event. The community sent in materials and helped fund a DonorsChoose to purchase kits for earthquake activities, simple machines, and solar-powered rovers. This all-day event allowed the parents and community to come together for a day of STEM.

Mrs. Beth Chappelear

Catoosa County Schools, Heritage Middle School

“Concussion Reduction”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Student-athletes in Mrs. Chappelear’s class jumped right in to tackle the real-world problem of “What can be done to help reduce concussions?”  Helmet prototypes were built for eggs and were tested with speed and impact trials to simulate “play.”  Her students applied mathematical formulas to analyze their results and suggest improvements to their designs.  This activity incorporates critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication – all skills that are needed for success in high school, college, and/or the workforce.

Impact Initiative

Mrs. Chappelear supports a group of students who produce the morning announcements for the school, the HMS Wake Up Call.  Born out of necessity, this group started after critical information was being missed by teachers and students over the school intercom.  This group of students started producing a live show every morning on YouTube.  Mrs. Chappelear facilitates and writes grants as needed to help HMS Wake Up Call obtain the equipment they need to produce their show.  Even when the school was closed for months due to COVID-19, the students continued to collaborate and produce the show remotely keeping the school community connected.


Mrs. Ann-Margaret Somers

Cherokee County Schools, Mill Creek Middle School

“Model Rockets”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Mrs. Somers’ eighth-grade students ended the year on a high note.  Using common materials, students were challenged to construct a model rocket.  The launch took place on a nearby high school practice field with the support and cheers from classmates and onlookers.  Mrs. Somers’ model rocket lesson provided the students with an opportunity to show mastery of the four Cs of STEM: creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking while showing their knowledge of eighth-grade science standards.

Impact Initiative

In 2019, Mrs. Somers was selected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the Northrup Gruman Foundation to be a part of a national fellowship of 26 STEM teachers.  Through this fellowship she has engaged in numerous professional book studies, webinars with top educators at NSTA, and completed virtual workshops.  Mrs. Somers has also worked with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on behalf of the Northrup Gruman Foundation to develop Next Generation Science Standards curriculum.  All these experiences allow her to provide engaging, meaningful, and inspiring learning experiences in her classroom.

Mr. Keith Weaver

Clarke County Schools, David C. Barrow Elementary School


STEM Classroom Lesson

Skyscrapers are modern marvels of architectural design and engineering.  Students in Mr. Weaver’s class were challenged to build free-standing models of these structures using only aluminum foil, marshmallows, and toothpicks.  During the challenge, students had to learn about various types of engineering and work through the engineering design process.  By the end of the challenge, these models did not just represent skyscrapers for Mr. Weaver’s students – they represented teamwork, having a growth mindset, and perseverance.

Impact Initiative

Mr. Weaver is leading a schoolwide enrichment initiative using STEM concepts.  His committee consists of general education and gifted teachers who would like to incorporate more STEM into their classrooms.  This initiative has generated a lot of excitement within the student body, as well as with teachers and administrators over its effectiveness.


Mrs. Kylie Garrard

Dooly County Schools, Dooly County K8 Academy

“CSI Dooly”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Mrs. Garrard’s students put themselves in the shoes of a lead detective for her CSI Dooly unit.  For two weeks, one corner of her classroom became a crime scene where students honed their observation skills and collected evidence to try to solve a murder.  Students analyzed surveillance footage, reviewed interrogation reports, and completed labs with chromatography, fingerprinting, pH, and powders before writing their letter to the district attorney describing who they think the murderer was and why.  Mrs. Garrard also enlisted the help of the school resource officer adding a real-world touch that really engaged her students.

Impact Initiative

Mrs. Garrard serves as Dooly County K8 Academy’s STEM advisor and co-chair of the STEM/STEAM Committee.  Each year, this committee puts on a full-day STEM event for the entire school.  The school is shut down for an entire day and filled with STEM stations for the students to rotate through.  Mrs. Garrard is responsible for gathering the materials and setting up the stations to make sure that it is a great experience for all the students.

Mrs. Sally Reese

Douglas County Schools, Chapel Hill Elementary School

“Engineering in Art”

STEM Classroom Lesson

During a unit on artist Frida Kahlo, K-2 students in Mrs. Reese’s class were challenged to design their own paintbrushes.  Using the stages of the engineering design process the students had to imagine, plan, and create their paintbrushes using a variety of supplies.  Once the paintbrushes were created, the students tested them by painting their own self-portraits and made improvements to their designs.  Mrs. Reese’s lesson was so popular older students requested to participate as well.

Impact Initiative

For the past few years, Mrs. Reese has been involved with the STEM Nights at Chapel Hill Elementary School.  Last year due to the pandemic, the STEM Night became a virtual event.  Mrs. Reese helped plan, facilitate, and manage the materials for the event for the face-to-face and virtual students.  After the event, Mrs. Reese went above and beyond creating a video of the activities for those students who were unable to attend.


Miss Tomanekka Irving

Fulton County Schools, Oakley Elementary School

“Hydroponic Tower Gardens”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Irving challenged her students to find a solution to make fresh vegetables more accessible in urban communities where grocery stores and space are limited.  Students began by researching possible solutions to combat food deserts and came up with creating a simple hydroponic system.  Prototypes of these systems were built and tested before vegetable seeds placed in Rockwool cubes were added to the towers.  As the seeds began to germinate, so did the students’ excitement.  Ms. Irving said multiple students tried vegetables from the classroom hydroponic tower garden that they never had before.

Impact Initiative

Ms. Irving serves as a representative on Oakley Elementary School’s STEAM certification team.  Part of her duties on this team includes assisting the grade level to carry out a year-long STEAM project.  By using the STEAM initiatives, Ms. Irving’s students have become problem solvers, are creating, are collaborating with others, and come to school excited to learn.

Mrs. Natalie Rachel

Fulton County Schools, Stonewall Tell Elementary School

“What’s the Buzz About Pollination?”

STEM Classroom Lesson

The importance of pollinators was not lost on Mrs. Rachel’s kindergarteners.  During their lesson, they were challenged to design a pollinator garden from recyclable materials.  In order to design their garden to meet the needs of local pollinators, students conducted scientific investigations and used the engineering design process to develop their models.  Community partners also worked with the students on beekeeping, planting, and gardening.

Impact Initiative

Last year, Mrs. Rachel chaired and planned a virtual Family STEAM Night to keep families engaged during the pandemic.  Despite the challenges brought by hosting a virtual event, with the help of volunteers and community partners, she was able to engage over 100 families in STEAM.  Mrs. Rachel is also involved with several other STEAM initiatives at her school: Science Olympiad, Garden Club, and STEM Gems.


Mrs. Catherine Hampton

Gordon County Schools, W.L. Swain Elementary School

“Victory Gardens”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Mrs. Hampton’s students engaged in STEM through history in her integrated unit on WW2.  During this unit, students planned, planted, and cared for a Victory Garden.  Students took the idea of “doing their part” to heart.  Vegetables from the Victory Garden were turned into salsas and soups and labels were made to look like WW2 posters.  These homemade salsas and soups were then given out to veterans in the community during a Veterans Day celebration.  Mrs. Hampton’s WW2 unit empowered her students to make real-world connections to history and make a difference in their community.

Impact Initiative

Mrs. Hampton encourages her students to experience coding and robotics through Spheros and Wonder Bots.  Students have been able to make the robots swim, paint, perform ballet, and engage in a Sumo wrestling match.  She even uses robotics in social studies where Spheros demonstrate how German troops were dropped off at designated coordinates. Mrs. Hampton knows that coding and robotics will prepare young learners to embrace technology and utilize it to solve problems.

Mrs. Laura Wolfe

Gordon County Schools, Ashworth Middle School


STEM Classroom Lesson

When the light is on, it is Sphero Time in Mrs. Wolfe’s sixth-grade classroom.  During this time, students can be found engaged in educational coding modules differentiated according to abilities, experience, and individual needs within her classroom.  An example task could be creating an obstacle course, then coding a Sphero Mini to navigate it.  These partner, small group, or whole group challenges range in complexity and differ according to interests, skills, and abilities.  From Mrs. Wolfe’s lesson, students will move from basic text and drawing coding to more advanced block coding.

Impact Initiative

Mrs. Wolfe assists with an annual community-wide STEM Night for students and families in partnership with the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  She volunteers to assist at a station where families explore a STEM activity.  Activities can be taking apart computers, coding with Spheros, experimenting with magnets, testing household materials using chromatography, creating paper airplanes and testing them under changing air pressures, and many more.  Mrs. Wolfe strides to help provide relevant and exciting STEM activities to her students and community.


Mrs. Catherin Toney

Harris County Schools, Park Elementary School

“Native American Shoes”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Mrs. Toney immersed her students in an integrated STEM unit about Native Americans.  After learning about Native American clothing and the time and energy it took to gather resources and produce the items, students were challenged with designing their own shoe.  Students were given a paper bag (to represent buckskin), twine (to represent sinew), and a sharpened pencil (to represent bone awl).  Once constructed, the shoe had to be worn for at least ten steps.  This lesson introduced Mrs. Toney’s students to problem-solving and collaboration all while giving them a better understanding of the conservation of resources.

Impact Initiative

For the past three years, Mrs. Toney has been deeply involved with STEM at her school by leading the yearly instructional planning for all the grade-level STEM projects.  She has also applied for grants to make sure that their projects get funded.  Through her efforts, Park Elementary is certified as a Monarch migration station and is requesting to be added to the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.

Mrs. Chassidy Hoffman

Jasper County Schools, Washington Park Elementary School

“Earthquake-Proof Structures”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Fifth-grade students in Mrs. Hoffman’s class shook up their learning during a unit on constructive and destructive forces.  Students learned about methods that engineers use to earthquake-proof buildings such as cross-bracing, shock-absorbing bases, and pendulums.  Then, their knowledge was put to the test when they were challenged to design their own structure to withstand an earthquake simulated using a shake table.  This lesson allowed Mrs. Hoffman’s students to be creative, collaborate, communicate, and apply critical thinking skills while learning about earthquakes.

Impact Initiative

Mrs. Hoffman is actively involved with Washington Park Elementary’s Science Olympiad Team.  In March of 2020, the Regional Event was canceled due to COVID-19.  In 2021, when no in-person events were going to be held again, Mrs. Hoffman decided that she wanted her students to have an in-person experience.  To do this, she organized a schoolwide Science Olympiad competition.  This event involved fellow teachers from Washington Park and the middle school and even brought in former Science Olympiad competitors to assist with events.  The feedback from students, parents, and teachers was overwhelmingly positive and has spurred a repeat event this year.


Mrs. Lisa Stokes

Lee County Schools, Lee County Middle School West

“Ghost Rockets”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Stokes’ WIN class starts the year off building ghost rockets.  Using the engineering design process, students find the best formula to get their rocket to launch more than a foot off the ground.  During the activity, students try various combinations of Alka-Seltzer and cornstarch to discover the perfect ratio.  While a simple activity, Ms. Stokes notes that the true effectiveness of this lesson comes from its ability to facilitate collaboration, problem-solving, and perseverance.

Impact Initiative

As part of the sixth-grade team, Ms. Stokes is involved with supporting the annual STEM project.  This year, the sixth-grade team is building a chicken coop to provide fresh eggs for the school and the local community.  The students have been tasked with researching how to build a chicken coop, how to main a chicken coop, and how to care for chickens at school.  Ms. Stokes facilitates the organization and discussion of their ideas so that decisions can be made.  This STEM project will be an ongoing project that will provide multiple learning opportunities for years to come.

Mr. Shane Williams

Lee County Schools, Lee County Middle School East

“The Lightning Thief”

STEM Classroom Lesson

At Lee County Middle School East, Mr. Williams and his collaborating teacher found a way to integrate STEM and ELA.  During a novel study on “The Lighting Thief,” Mr. Williams teaches a unit on atmospheric conditions and weather in earth science.  As a culminating project, the students are challenged to build cloud makers that use air pressure to create clouds inside of a two-liter bottle.  Students also call on their experiences during their build to respond to a writing prompt in ELA which Mr. Williams says has helped students who are normally reluctant to respond to writing prompts craft a response.

Impact Initiative

Mr. Williams is a robotics coach at Lee County Middle School East and a pioneer of robotics in the Southwest Georgia area.  His team has advanced to super-regionals in three out of the past four years while also winning awards for core values and robot designs.  While the 2020-2021 school year was challenging, his team managed to build, program, and test a robot all while using Google Meet, Zoom, and email.  Their project focused on making sports more accessible for athletes with special needs.


Ms. Arleeta Outlaw

Marietta City Schools, Dunleith Elementary School

“Oreo Moon Phases”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Outlaw appeals to both her students’ thirst for knowledge and their appetites with her Oreo Moon Phases lesson.  First, students engage with the moon in various ways: through technology; through hands-on activities; and through observation.  Then, students are asked to create a model of the phases of the moon using Oreo cookies.  Ms. Outlaw states that the lesson is effective because it allows students to connect what they have learned to a real-life event that occurs, plus it involves a favorite snack.

Impact Initiative

As the first STEM teacher at her school, Ms. Outlaw has begun many initiatives such as STEM Nights, schoolwide STEM Days, and Science Fair.  She is also the sponsor for her school’s STEM Gems Club.  The goal of STEM Gems is to expose more elementary-age girls to STEM, especially minorities, as research shows that there is a lack of women in STEM professions.  Besides their STEM goals, Ms. Outlaw encourages her STEM Gems to participate in community service such as wrapping presents for the elderly, participating in a breast cancer walk, and donating canned food to a local food bank.

Ms. Morgan Long

Monroe County Schools, Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary School

“Investigating Soils”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Students in Ms. Long’s third-grade class were not afraid to get their hands dirty during their lesson on soil and its properties.  To begin, students were asked to observe three different types of soils.  Then, an investigation was conducted to determine which type of soil could retain the most water.  Following these observations and investigations, students learned about the different sizes of particles in the soils to determine which soil type would be the best for plants.  Ms. Long had the students present this information and students were thoroughly engaged and had a deep understanding of the topic.

Impact Initiative

Last year, Ms. Long’s class entered the Georgia STEM competition.  The competition required students to improve soil health in an area of their school.  Students chose an area of the school and collected soil samples to see what the soil was lacking.  Once results came back, under Ms. Long’s guidance students researched what could be added to the soil to improve the soil quality.  Ms. Long also facilitated the donation of soil, trees, and bushes that could be planted.  The students prepared the area, amended the soil, planted the bushes and trees, and continue to maintain the area.


Mrs. Brandy Sims

Monroe County Schools, Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary School

“Save the Roses”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Sims’ fifth-grade students took their plant classification unit to a whole new level when they began to look for the root cause of why the school’s rose bushes were not thriving in a particular location.  Students collaborated and investigated everything from the ground up: the soil (acidity and microorganisms), sunlight, and water.  Based on their findings, the students decided to move one of the rose bushes to a new location.  This information was shared throughout the school and entered into a GAE Challenge. Ms. Sims mentioned that even though the students did not win the challenge, it was great to facilitate their learning while watching the students connect content to the real world around them.

Impact Initiative

Ms. Sims is an active member of Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary School’s STEM committee which is looking to be recertified as a STEAM school.  She has led many professional development sessions for the staff to help them reach this goal.  Ms. Sims is a mentor for STEM Endorsement candidates and assists them in reviewing their lessons and units.  She also coaches Science Olympiad and has helped facilitate several STEM Nights.

Ms. Jolaine Whitehead

Oconee County Schools, Malcom Bridge Middle School

“What is Happening to Our Playground”

STEM Classroom Lesson

During this semester-long unit, students in Ms. Whitehead’s class identified concerns and began learning the process of what was causing the changes on their school’s playground.  Students used the engineering design process to create a device to measure the changes on the playground in the first part of the unit, and again to design an erosion control solution in the second part.  Then, students pitched their plan to the administration utilizing Claymation and stop motion recording techniques.  Ms. Whitehead remarked that the students were highly engaged in purposeful learning connected to real-world applications and excited about it.

Impact Initiative

At a previous school, Ms. Whitehead led a STEAM certification effort.  She led the school’s faculty in professional development on project-based learning, scientific inquiry, engineering design, and three-dimensional science methodology.  One of the key components of this work Ms. Whitehead acknowledges is making those real-world connections for students both in the learning unit and application of solving the presented problem or phenomena.  This allows students to see how math, science, engineering, technology, and the arts complement and support each other in real-world situations.


Mrs. Amanda Garrett

Paulding County Schools, Mcgarity Elementary School

“Mission Monarch”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Garrett’s students began with the question, “Where did all the butterflies go, and will they come back?”  This generated a year-long unit about the monarch butterfly.  Students learned about migration and what specific plants the monarch butterfly would need to thrive.  Local experts were brought in to work with the students to create a sustaining butterfly garden.  Ms. Garrett noted that students suddenly found a purpose for many of the content standards and were able to apply them in real-life situations.

Impact Initiative

Ms. Garrett is very involved with numerous STEM initiatives at McGarity Elementary School, one of which is the school-wide STEM team.  The STEM team includes a recycling program and grant writing, which has allowed the student bodies’ PBL projects to be funded.  She has facilitated lessons during Spooky STEM Nights and was the presenter for McGarity Elementary’s inaugural STEM Day.  Ms. Garrett also teaches coding with Ozobots.

Ms. Donita Legoas

Richmond County Schools, A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School

“Green Neighborhood”

STEM Classroom Lesson

During her unit on energy, Ms. Legoas’ students found themselves immersed in information.  It all begins with a trip to the Savannah River Nuclear Site where students were provided with hands-on energy-related resources and a plethora of knowledge.  Students used this information to code Ozobots through a maze avoiding energy sources detrimental to the environment.  Then, students created solar cars and helicopters, water turbines out of two-liter bottles, and completed a variety of experiments involving wind energy.  All of these experiences come together at the end of the unit when they have to design their Green Neighborhood with both active and passive means of energy conservation.  Ms. Legoas remarked that the students’ enthusiasm for the topic and their engagement in the energy unit make this a great success.

Impact Initiative

Ms. Legoas and a co-worker began what is now known as the Middle School STEM Showcase.  This event which started out as just a sixth-grade affair now encompasses the 6th Grade Rock and Mineral Museum and Gift Shop, the 7th Grade 3D Cell Model Museum, and an 8th Grade Interactive Periodic Table and Virtual Reality Station as well as demonstrations from the school’s drone and robotics teams.  Local community members and the school’s PTSA also participate.  Ms. Legoas says that the event is the highlight of the year for the students, parents, and staff at the A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School.


Ms. Jessica Duncan

Thomas County Schools, Garrison-Pilcher Elementary School

“Slimy Attributes”

STEM Classroom Lesson

Ms. Duncan’s second-grade students take matters into their own hands by making slime during their unit on matter.  First students investigate how slime is made using glue and an activator.  Then, students observe how adding different materials to the slime changes its attributes. Ms. Duncan notes that there are never any two slimes with exactly the same attributes making this lesson a student favorite.

Impact Initiative

Ms. Duncan is involved with several STEM initiatives at Garrison-Pilcher Elementary School.  She regularly assists with STEM Nights and the Robotics and Coding camps hosted over the summer.  This year, Ms. Duncan plans to add raised garden beds to enrich the learning of the students at Garrison-Pilcher Elementary School.