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GeekWire Awards 2021: Meet the Notable STEM Educators Who Are Inspiring Next Generation Geeks

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STEM Educators of the Year 2021, from left: Lauren Bricker, Cathi Rodgveller, and Kim Williams.

Over the years, GeekWire has highlighted many of the tireless folks who are feeding the next generation of geeks. And this year we are pleased to announce a new award to recognize a select group of the best teachers in the Pacific Northwest.

This inaugural cohort is an impressive collection of educators who are inspiring young minds to achieve more in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They come from universities, public schools, and non-profit organizations, and they are working with children from elementary school to college and also supporting their fellow teachers.

We invite you to meet our STEM Educators of the Year for 2021, presented by DreamBox Learning, as part of our 2021 GeekWire Awards celebration:

Lauren Bricker, Paul G. Allen School of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Washington

Lauren Bricker of the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen College of Computer Science and Engineering. (Photo by Stephen Spencer)

If the computer science education of the Pacific Northwest were a solar system, Lauren Bricker could play the role of the sun. His efforts to reach K-12 students through college have shed light on various parts of the educational system.

For the past four years, Bricker has held a teaching position at the University of Washington Paul G. Allen School of Engineering and Computer Science. She is also president of the Puget Sound Computer Science Teachers Association.

In her role at Allen School, Bricker is a crucial link between the computer science college and K-12 education across the state. That has included:

  • Serving as a contact point for K-12 computer science teachers, connecting them to resources, providing curriculum guidance, and visiting high school classes annually.
  • Principal contributor to the College of Engineering’s State Academic RedShirt (STARS) program, serving low-income, first-generation, and underserved students.
  • Faculty member of a program called “Startup!” that helps incoming students adjust to the rigor of college while expanding their peer support network.
  • Host a series of “community conversations” for computer science students of color, prompting students to create a Minority in Technology affinity group at Allen School.

In addition to his efforts at UW, Bricker has worked with Code.org to develop curriculum and conduct professional development training for educators, and lobbied the state legislature for a bill that requires all public high schools provide computer science education. He taught computer science for a decade at Seattle’s elite Lakeside High School.

“Lauren approaches all of her work through a lens of diversity, fairness and inclusion,” said the UW colleague who nominated her for this GeekWire award. “For her, access to computer science courses is just the starting point, where the real goal is for everyone to prosper, especially those who never saw themselves as computer scientists.”

Cathi Rodgveller, CEO and Founder of IGNITE Worldwide

Cathi Rodgveller, CEO and Founder of IGNITE Worldwide. (Photo by IGNITE)

In the midst of a global pandemic when many people are just trying to keep the wheels rolling, Cathi Rodgveller is expanding the reach of her program to get girls excited about STEM.

More than 20 years ago, Rodgveller created IGNITE, an initiative within the Seattle Public Schools that introduced girls to women working in technology roles. The program has grown dramatically, relaunching as its own nonprofit in 2016 and is now called IGNITE Worldwide. The organization serves 60 US school districts and has branches in more than 40 countries. The participating schools are overwhelmingly BlPOC (Black, Native American, and People of Color) on average and about half of the students are low-income.

IGNITE has accumulated numerous accolades, including honors from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Education, and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

Beyond all the data and awards, what really resonates are the responses of the girls themselves.

IGNITE continued to offer its outreach programs over the past year through virtual encounters between professional women and girls in middle and high school. That included racial and ethnic diversity panels from Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Disney, Tesla and other companies and universities.

“This event inspired me because it was really cool to see so many women and especially women of different ethnicities talking about career opportunities and their travels. Thank you so much for sharing, it was great and inspiring! “wrote to an eighth grade girl who attended a virtual session with Boeing engineers.

“I saw a different side of STEM. The industry is changing every day and there are more opportunities, ”said a 12th grader after a panel with Moz engineers from Seattle.

One of her 10th graders responded, “Today’s event inspired me because now I feel more confident about wanting a career in STEM. This event helped encourage me to follow my dreams. “

IGNITE serves approximately 10,000 girls a year and is testing a pilot project with fourth and fifth grade girls.

Kim Williams, Science Department Chair, Cougar Mountain High School Science Club Faculty Advisor

Kim Williams, science teacher, science club faculty advisor, and chair of the Science Department at Cougar Mountain Middle School. (Photo from Cougar Mountain)

There are many good teachers and some are great. But not many can pass the bar for the exceptional, the kind of educator who can spark curiosity in children, regardless of their academic strengths and interests. Kim Williams is one of those few.

Williams is a science teacher, science club faculty advisor, and chair of the Science Department at Cougar Mountain Middle School. The school is located in a city west of Mount Rainier where half of the 600 students are low-income.

Williams has been teaching high school kids for about 14 years and before that she taught science through the YMCA. Her career has focused on schools with fewer resources, but she has worked to bring technology into the classroom, create an inclusive environment, and provide opportunities that students would not have had otherwise, including interactions with snakes, mice, and other classroom pets. .

Over the years, Williams has established herself as a leader among teachers, integrating technology into her classroom and encouraging others to do the same. When the COVID-19 pandemic last year forced educators to provide virtual instruction, Williams is credited with helping colleagues adopt new technologies and transition to remote classrooms.

Williams was nominated for this GeekWire award by a fellow educator who said that she “has her finger on the pulse of what her high school students find interesting and so relatable that even the most challenging students end up finding their classes their favorites. “

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