Z-M Teacher Nominated for Outstanding Teacher Award


On December 20, it was announced that thirteen southeast Minnesota educators were nominated for the 2022-23 Outstanding Educator Award. Jacob Findlay of Byron High School was recognized as winner of the award, and among the nominees was Stephanie Foss of Zumbrota-Mazeppa Schools. The award, hosted by STEM Forward (formerly RAMSP), 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 nominees 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.

This award is presented by Southeast Service Cooperative’s STEM Forward program. STEM Forward is a collaborative group of southeast Minnesota K-12 school districts, post-secondary partners, and community businesses – IBM, Mayo Clinic, The Hormel Institute, and Work-force Development, Inc, who work together to promote STEM excellence in our K-12 schools.

The Outstanding Educator Awards event will be celebrated at the 31st annual STEM Forward gathering on February 8, 2023, at The Workshop in Rochester. Findlay will be recognized as official winner of the award. At Byron High School he has been credited with improving systems and courses in the science, careers, and engineering fields. At the ceremony he will be given a glass trophy and will give a presentation on his innovations. The other nominees will receive a certificate of achievement. This event will be livestreamed on Facebook via @SSCMinnesota.

About Stephanie Foss

Foss is a kindergarten teacher and a K-2 Ignite teacher at ZM. She spent the first five years of her time at ZM as a kindergarten classroom teacher. She moved into the role of Ignite teacher for all K-2 and has been in that role for the past three years. In 2020, Foss completely rewrote the curriculum and changed her instruction for Ignite to incorporate STEM activities while also working on social and emotional skills. In Ignite, students engage in problem-solving through engineering challenges while building their skills in cooperation and collaboration.

Foss transformed what was a social skills-focused curriculum for K-2, into a STEM-focused, collaboration-based curriculum. She did this as a last-minute change at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year in response to an expressed need by K-2 classroom teachers and administrators.

Foss works with K-2 students, seeing each student in the building once every four days. Through her Ignite class, the students are taught about the engineering design process and frequently engage in that process through engineering challenges. Students use creation cards and limited materials to challenge their brain to complete challenges. Through these challenges, students are being encouraged daily to think creatively and to utilize brainstorming methods to independently problem solve. Many challenges incorporate aspects of collaboration and cooperation, as students work in small groups or with partners in order to accomplish the task for the day.

Foss is involved in the work of incorporating STEM instruction throughout the primary building at ZM. Not just in her classroom, but in each and every classroom in the building. She supports classroom teachers by sharing ideas and materials, as well as by engaging in the creation of instruction with them. She also collaborates regularly with the Ignite teacher at the elementary building (3-6) to vertically align their STEM curriculum.

Throughout the year, Foss introduces career paths and jobs that utilize many of the STEM concepts she has students work on in her Ignite class. The students are able to draw direct connections between the STEM and collaboration skills they are working on and potential future careers

Foss has been one of ZM’s representatives to STEM Forward for the past two years, attending trainings and workshops whenever possible. She has worked to expand her own knowledge and experience with STEM instruction, with the aim of building educator capacity at ZM and beyond. Foss has always been willing to share her knowledge and experience with colleagues, and working with colleagues in fellow STEM Forward districts is no different for her.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here