Each year, hundreds of regional K-12 teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches converge to explore STEM education instruction, technology, and cutting edge techniques.
The 2023 event was a smashing success! Check back in 2024 for details on the next event.
Congratulations to the 2023 STEM Education Leadership Award winners!
Brother Abdine Lewis
Early Career STEM Educator Award Recipient
Brother Abdine Lewis is a dynamic professional dedicated to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM education. Holding a Master's in Higher Education Administration, Brother Abdine is the Founder and Executive Director of Black Boys in Tech (BBIT). Under his leadership, BBIT has become a trailblazer, securing over $300k in funding and creating a STEM pipeline for African-American boys. His role as Director of GE Next Engineers at the University of Cincinnati resulted in a program promoting diversity in engineering, impacting over 2,000 diverse students and securing $1.5 million in scholarships. Brother Abdine's commitment to social justice and diversity in education is evident in his publications and presentations, reflecting his passion for empowering underrepresented communities in STEM.
Mid-Career STEM Educator Award Recipient
Amanda Sopko is a mathematics educator and Gifted Intervention Specialist with a journey spanning Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio. Her tenure at Indian Hill Schools has seen her wear different hats, from math educator to Gifted Specialist. Amanda is a perpetual learner, currently enrolled in UC’s Makers in Education program and actively pursuing grants for OSLN. Her impact extends to the classroom, where she developed a quadrant system for differentiated learning, showcased in a school Master Class video. As a Gifted and STEM Specialist, Amanda champions student agency, fosters leadership roles, and promotes STEM for all. She's a conference presenter, collaborator, and a critical leader during the Ohio STEM Designation process for Indian Hill Elementary.
Outstanding STEM Educator Career Achievement Award
(20-30 years experience)
Michelle Bowen is a dedicated educator with an impressive 24-year tenure in the Grant County School District. Michelle's journey is fueled by her childhood dislike of science, pushing her to create a more engaging experience for her students. Armed with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a Master's in Integration of Technology, she seamlessly blends education and technology in her classroom. Michelle's commitment to growth is evident, from avid reading to active participation in organizations like CINSAM. Last year, she spearheaded a groundbreaking STEAM program district-wide, showcasing her dedication to innovation. Michelle wears many hats, from being the lead for the district's ambitious Deeper Learning Project to her role as Curriculum Specialist. Outside of work, she's a family person, finding joy in supporting her kids at various sporting events along with her husband Scott.
Outstanding STEM Educator Career Achievement Award
(30+ years experience)
Jennifer Miller is a seasoned educator with over thirty years of experience in Cincinnati Public Schools. She's been a mainstay at Fairview-Clifton German Language School, shaping young minds in grades 3-6, with a focus on math and science. Mrs. Miller is a firm believer in the power of relationships and the idea that every child can succeed. In her classroom, art and technology aren't just tools; they're gateways to a lifelong love of math and learning. Beyond her teaching role, Mrs. Miller has been a Demo Teacher/Coach at the district level, sharing her tech-infused math wisdom. She's a familiar face on local, state, and national stages, spreading her love for STEM.
Amanda Andrews - Early Career STEM Educator Award
Amanda currently serves as the Director of First-Year Experience and Programming at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). She oversees the departments First-Year Seminar courses, the First-Year Experience, and the Common Experience programs content and events for incoming students, first-year seminar faculty, and the NKU Campus. The programs highlight needed academic content for student success, different resources across campus, and student success through engagement and community connection. In her short time as Director, Amanda has successfully implemented campus engagement activities centered around student mental health, and food and clothing disparity. She also currently serves as a faculty member teaching at NKU.
Before her acceptance of the First-Year Experience role, Amanda worked for the Institute for Health Innovation at NKU as the K-12 Program Coordinator. Within this role she designed and assisted in the creation of middle and high school field trips, bringing youth to NKU’s state-of-the-art Simulation Center. She helped create the NKU Heartsavers initiative which sought to get over 150 students, aged 15 and older, American Heart Association certified in first aid, CPR, and AED. She oversees the Teen Health Science Café network program servicing six different sites with connections to faculty and professionals in health related fields for a lunch and learn opportunity. Finally she implemented the successful Summer Health Book club which was delivered to over 70 students in grades 2-4 across the region during the 2020 summer. This program sought to inform children of three different health topics through fun activities, a book, a cute 3D printed keepsake, and journal prompts housed within three monthly boxes. All of our programs provided these services free of charge due to the grant funding IHI applied and received.
George Edwards - Mid-Career STEM Educator Award
George Edmonds has overcome many obstacles on his path to becoming a STEM educator. George was listed as a special needs student in elementary school, was a high school dropout, and is a GED graduate. Mr. Edmonds has a Bachelors, Masters, and Education Specialist degree and is currently working on his doctorate degree in education. George has over 14 years of experience as a high school science teacher, STEM coordinator, and department chairperson with Columbus City Schools located in Columbus, Ohio. His two years’ experience as a research technician at Battelle, 30 years of experience with robotics, remote controlled devices (including aircraft), along with his four years of experience as an FAA professionally certified sUAS pilot have allowed George to pass that knowledge on to his students.
George has participated in the Exxon Mobile Louis Stokes STEM Program for underrepresented students held at Central State University, and he has written and received grant funding from the HONDA R&D STEM program for his high school STEM club. George has also received awards from both Central State University and Columbus City Schools for academic achievement and instruction. George resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Ruth (and their dog Cole) and credits his faith in God for his blessings.
Lillian Sims - Outstanding STEM Educator Career Achievement Award (20-30 years experience)
Lillian Sims is a biology teacher at Shroder High School and a 20-year veteran of Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) where she has taught various high school science courses. In high school, Lillian’s career goal was to become a pharmaceutical chemist, so she went to college and studied chemistry. Initially, Lillian struggled in her major, but says that the time of struggle taught her some things about being a student, and in hindsight, shaped her role as a science teacher. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Morris Brown College, Lillian pursued graduate studies and research in industrial chemistry before taking a job as a consumer products researcher. While working as a graduate assistant in undergraduate chemistry, one of her advisors, Dr. Gloria Anderson, tried to discourage her from accepting a job in industry. She said Lillian had the heart of a teacher and would have a greater impact if she became an educator. Although Lillian did not follow Dr. Anderson’s advice at the time, she never forgot her words. After spending many years reflecting on what Dr. Anderson said, and acknowledging the variety of ways in which she was serving as a teacher, Lillian eventually changed careers and became a secondary science teacher — that’s the power of influence of an educator. Lillian completed her Alternative Educator License program and subsequently earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Cincinnati (UC).
Lillian has worked in various roles in Cincinnati Public Schools, including districtwide mentor, science specialist, member of the science expert cadre, member of the science curriculum council steering team, and science department chairperson. She is also a member of the first cohort of Expert Clinically-Based Teacher Educators which is a collaboration between UC and CPS to leverage the expertise of veteran STEM educators in the district. Lillian considers herself a lifelong learner as much as she considers herself a STEM educator. Her former principal told her that during their entire time working together, he has always seen her either taking training or leading training. Lillian has presented at local, regional, and national conferences including the National Science Teaching Association, American Society for Engineering Education, Noyce Midwest Regional Conference, Noyce Annual Summit, and the UC/NKU STEM Conference. Currently Lillian is pursuing her doctorate in Teacher Leadership at UC.
Amy Jameson - Outstanding STEM Educator Career Achievement Award (30+ years experience)
Mrs. Jameson’s career spanned 36 years before she retired from teaching in Cincinnati Public Schools in 2021. After earning a B.S. in Secondary Science Education from University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Education in 1985, she began teaching Physics and Chemistry in the Cincinnati Public Schools. In 2010 she earned a Masters in Teaching Science from the UC College of Arts and Sciences. She also taught at Cincinnati State, including various Chemistry courses and Anatomy & Physiology, and Secondary Science methods at UC College of Education.
In 2010, she was selected to participate in the UC College of Engineering’s Research Experience for Teachers (RET), and was asked to represent the university in presenting at that year’s NOAA Conference for Teacher Research Experience. In 2015 she entered the CEEMS program at UC as part of Cohort 4. As a result of her work in RET and CEEMS, and training from AIAA, she developed an aerospace research project for her Honors Physics classes which resulted in a unique research partnership between Dater High School and Miami University. Mrs. Jameson received 2013 Sigma Research Fraternity Award for High School Teachers Advancing Research, and the project was extended to other high schools as a result of a $25,000 grant from the NASA Space Grant Consortium, in partnership with Kelly Cohen, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, UC. Dr. Cohen and Mrs. Jameson had the honor of being asked to lobby congress for NASA funding, and to present the project to the NASA National Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2015. In 2016, she earned Lead Teacher status in Cincinnati Public Schools, her master teaching license, and was chosen to participate in the first cohort of the Expert Clinically Based Teacher Educators as part of the Noyce Master Teaching program. She has contributed to the book published as a result of the CEEMS grant, and has presented several times at the Noyce Foundation’s conferences for training pre-service and new STEM teachers.
John Lash - Early Career STEM Educator Award
John Lash graduated from Manchester University in 2012 with a B.S. in Chemistry. John began teaching at Randolph Southern Jr/Sr High School in the Fall of 2013. With sights fully set on becoming a licensed public school teacher, John earned an ETS Recognition of Excellence on the Chemistry Praxis and entered the Transition to Teaching program at Indiana University - East.
During his tenure at Randolph Southern Jr/Sr High School, John worked to aggressively expand the science program. He added AP Chemistry to the course rotation by adding ACP (dual credit) Chemistry to the curriculum. John was also a recipient of a Vernier Classroom Grant, which allowed him to add several hands-on labs to the AP and dual credit curricula. He also taught AP Physics for a neighboring school corporation that was without a physics teacher, worked as adjunct faculty in the IU East Chemistry Department, and was a member of Indiana’s first cohort of Ford NGLU Project-Based Learning certified educators. Additionally, John was twice honored by his students as the Mideastern Conference STAR Educator.
Having earned a Master’s Degree in Education, John has transitioned into administration. In the Fall of 2021, John became the principal of Driver Middle School in Winchester, Indiana. As a building principal, John still teaches AP Physics at Winchester Community High School. He is currently a member of the Standards Review Process for the Indiana Academic Standards for Science and Computer Science.
Tonkia Bridges - Mid-Career STEM Educator Award
Tonkia Bridges (a.k.a. Coach Tee) is a passionate educator teaching with Cincinnati Public Schools and the University of Cincinnati, and founder of Nurturing Educational Readiness and Development from the Start (NERDS). With a professional background in research and education, Coach Tee began working extensively in education starting in 2009.
Her passion to nurture and develop students continued to grow, leading to the decision to develop an organization addressing the academic and social needs of students in her community. As a result, NERDS was launched in February 2018. Since the very beginning, Coach Tee’s vision for NERDS has been to inspire the inner nerd of young learners through fun and education with hands-on learning experiences that help students become life learners, future leaders, and compassionate caring members of their community. That vision is fulfilled in NERDS’ Nurturing Educational Readiness and Development through Learning Infused with Fun and Education (NERDLIFE) learning opportunities, providing students with various learning experiences beyond the four walls of the classroom.
A sports lover, avid reader, and a lover of learning and exploring new things, she is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati with degrees in Chemical Engineering 03’, Chemical Technology 06’, and Educational Leadership 08’, and currently pursuing Ed.D in Leadership for Organizations at the University of Dayton.
Hallie Booth - Outstanding STEM Educator Career Achievement Award (20-30 years experience)
Hallie has just been named the 2022 Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year; the 2021 Greater Cincinnati Outstanding STEM teaching award and is currently teaching 8th grade science at Ballyshannon Middle School in Boone County. Hallie has spent 26 years in education in many roles, she has served as an Instructional Coach, Assistant Principal, Principal and worked for the Kentucky Department of Education as the Regional Science Lead. Hallie graduated with a B.A. of Arts in Criminal Justice Law Enforcement, B.A. in Elementary Education, Masters in Special Education, an Endorsement in K-9 Science Education and a Rank 1 from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio in Leadership. Hallie used LDC (Literacy Design Collaborative) in her classroom to create well-rounded, rigorous literacy based units. She has presented at the National Southern Regional Education Board conference in New Orleans, and North Carolina and Nashville, State LDC meetings, and at other districts in the state. She has written several articles on the integration of literacy within the science classroom and was a Panelist at the 2012 Education Nation discussing the implementation of the Common Core in the classroom. Hallie has been trained as a “Common Core Advocate” training educators on how to implement Common Core within the science classroom across the country and within her state. Hallie has worked with the Thurgood Marshall Foundation teacher institute as a trainer/mentor for teachers and pre-service teachers on classroom instruction, Common Core, literacy across the core classes and classroom management. Hallie has written an article for NSTA online planning science instruction for all students. Hallie has had many leadership roles throughout her career including Science Lead, Site Based member, Member of the District Leadership Team, Member of the Green and Healthy Schools Committee, and instrumental in the implementation of a solar panel project at her school.
Hallie resides in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky with her husband, Jim, Step-Son Trevor and enjoys being a grandmother to Ellie and Trinity who resides with her step-daughter, Hannah and husband, Jacob.
Dr. Rajeev Swami - Outstanding STEM Educator Career Achievement Award (30+ years experience)
Rajeev Swami, Ed.D. is a Professor of Science Education at Central State University. After moving to U.S.A. in 1985, Dr. Swami received his B.S. Chemistry/Physics Education, M.Ed., Ed.D. all from the University of Cincinnati. From 1988 – 2000, Dr. Swami taught Chemistry and Physics in urban and suburban school districts in the Cincinnati area before moving to Northern Kentucky University in 2000 to prepare 21st century educators. At CSU, Dr. Swami has served as the Director of Field & Clinical Experiences, Director of Accreditation, and Chair of the Professional Education Department.
Dr. Swami has been serving STEM education at the state, regional, national, and international associations on issues from science teaching and standards to teacher quality. He is a past president of the National Middle Level Science Teachers Association and the Science Education Council of Ohio. Currently he serves as the panel chair of the Adolescent Young Adult Science program review for the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
He has been recognized for his work in education with the 2011 Ohio University Supervisor Award, the 2018 Faculty Excellent Award by the Southwestern Council of Higher Education, 2019 Ohio Mentor of the Year, and the 2019 Patricia E. Blosser Service to Science in Ohio by the Science Education Council of Ohio. Dr. Swami is serving as Interim Dean of the College of Education at Central State University.