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Awards & Recognition

Talented KSTF Teaching Fellows and Senior Fellows are demonstrating their leadership in education every day. Here are some of their recent achievements.

Pienta and Vanhala Awarded Project Kindle Fellowships













2014 KSTF Teaching Fellows Susan Pienta and Michelle Vanhala were named as 2017 Project Kindle Fellows. The two are part of a group of 16 teachers who were selected to take part in Earthwatch expeditions alongside world-class scientists, where they will collect data connected to some of the world’s most pressing research questions in climate change, ocean health, wildlife and ecosystems, and archaeology. As part of the Fellowship, Susan and Michelle will be trained to lead a group of their students on an Earthwatch expedition in 2018 or 2019.

Vanhala Accepted in Second MEA Carbon TIME Network

Carbon: Transformations in Matter and Energy (Carbon TIME) is a National Science Foundation-funded program that offers publicly available teaching units, teacher professional development, and teacher networks based in local education agencies. Michelle Vanhala, a 2014 KSTF Teaching Fellow, was selected as a participant in the second cohort of the Michigan Education Association‘s (MEA) Carbon TIME program. For the next two years, she will explore how to engage her students in science practices with 11 other middle and high school teachers in the state.

Hawthorne Becomes Google Certified Educator

KSTF Senior Fellow Sarah Hawthorne became a Level 1 Google Certified Educator in November 2016. Through the associated training, she became familiar with various Google tools and how to integrate them in the classroom.

O’Bryan Recognized for Encouraging Women in Computing

At the fifth annual Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards (AiC) ceremony, 2012 KSTF Teaching Fellow Kaitie O’Bryan will be recognized in the educator honorable mention category. Sponsored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Kaitie is being recognized for her demonstrated commitment to encouraging young women’s aspirations in computing. Specifically, she taught the first computer science course to 20 students at her school in 2015. One year later, more than 100 students have been impacted by the program. Read more.

Ellis Named Educator of Excellence

2014 KSTF Teaching Fellow Timothy Ellis was named Washburn Rural High School’s Educator of Excellence for the fall 2016 semester. Students submit nominations for this award, which recognizes one teacher per semester for their efforts towards making a positive impact on the lives of the students in the building.

Stambach Novel Receives Alex Award

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, the debut novel by KSTF Senior Fellow Scott Stambach, received a 2017 Alex Award. The Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, gives this award annually to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. Read more about the award: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/alex-awards

Scott teaches physics and astronomy at MiraCosta and Mesa Colleges in San Diego, California.

Johnson Achieved National Board Certification

KSTF Senior Fellow Kelsey Johnson—an engineering design, programming and AP Computer Science teacher at Academy of Engineering and Aerospace at Erie High School (CO)—achieved National Board Certification in December 2016. She is one of 533 teachers to achieve certification following revisions to the certification process established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

National Board Certification is an advanced credential developed for and by teachers. To achieve certification, candidates must submit a reflection on student work samples, video and analysis of teaching practice, and documentation of the impact of assessment and collaboration on student learning. Additionally, candidates must successfully complete an assessment of content knowledge.

Read more about National Board Certification


Wild Co-Authors Book

KSTF Senior Fellow Andrew Wild co-wrote Arguing From Evidence in Middle School Science: 24 Activities for Productive Talk and Deeper Learning. The book is available on Amazon.  


On August 22, 2016, KSTF Senior Fellow Laura Darnall was named as one of two recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching for the state of Tennessee. As a Presidential awardee, Darnall will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science
Foundation. Additionally, she’ll be recognized at an awards ceremony that will be held in Washington, D.C., on September 8. Read more about the award in a White House press release.

Darnall teaches physics and engineering at Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, Tennessee.


2012 KSTF Teaching Fellow Kate Miller was featured in Physics in Your Future, a publication of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, a committee of the American Physical Society. Kate states, teaching is “just as rigorous, challenging and tiring as any other options a physicist has in front of them.” Read her full profile in the booklet.