On Tuesday, January 9, nine southeast Minnesota educators were nominated for the 2023-2024 Outstanding Educator Award hosted by STEM Forward (formerly RAMSP) which recognizes K-12 professionals who strive toward the highest levels of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) excellence within their schools and community, with a focus on initiative and continuous improvement in every aspect of their work.
Outstanding Educator recipients foster high K-12 student achievement, exhibit leadership and support for continuous improvement, promote STEM careers, and demonstrate collaboration among K-12 schools, businesses, and post-secondary education.
Zumbrota-Mazeppa Elementary School teacher Lidia Wallerich is one of this year’s nominees. Wallerich teaches grades 3-6 Ignite, a STEM-focused class where students engage in collaborative challenges utilizing the engineering design process. Students work together to solve problems utilizing coding, robots, 3-D printers, and more current technologies. Wallerich also started a fifth and sixth grade coding league at ZM Elementary School during the 2022-23 school year. That year she had thirteen participants in grades five and six. The teams competed nationally through the Youth Coding League organization. One of the sixth-grade teams she coached took first place in the nation in their category in their first year. This year, sixteen students participated with one team placing second in the nation for their group project. These students learn many basics of coding through the Ignite class Wallerich teaches, and they are able to expand upon and apply that learning through the coding team experience.