WATERLOO — An Orange Elementary School teacher is dreaming up more ways to engage her students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics after recently being recognized for her work in those fields.

Stacey Snyder received the IOWA STEM Teacher Award during a surprise ceremony last month in one of her classes. The award, which included $1,500 for Snyder and $1,500 for her classroom use, was sponsored by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and Kemin Industries. She won the award for the Northeast STEM region, one of six in the state.

The expanded learning program and gifted resource teacher has been an educator for more than 30 years. At Orange, she serves as the coach for the FIRST Lego League teams and hosts the Society of Women Engineers, which offers five month-long after-school sessions for fourth and fifth grades.

“I have a masters in science education and science has always been one of my passions,” said Snyder. “I begin with doing some very authentic hands-on science with kids.”

She gets students involved butterfly tagging through Monarch Watch in the fall and the Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Both are citizen science efforts gathering data used to study the wildlife. Other hands-on opportunities for students have been allowed by grant funding Snyder received for a maker space, virtual reality goggles and 360-degree cameras, and QR code identification of trees and shrubs planted at the school.

Before Orange, Snyder was a science teacher and counselor in several school districts, an area education agency science curriculum consultant, principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly and a science methods instructor at Wartburg College. She has also been an interpretive naturalist for two county conservation boards.

She submitted an application for the STEM award after being nominated by a school volunteer. Jeff Beneke, manager of the Northeast Regional STEM hub, said a panel of judges chose her from among 19 nominations in the region and 105 statewide.

Snyder’s involvement “in a variety of different activities to enhance not only her personally but to enhance the experiences she will bring to the kids” was important to her choice, said Beneke. Among those was her STEM Council externship last summer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at Sweet Marsh. “She just goes above and beyond to enhance the experience for her kids,” he noted.

Snyder and the other winners will be recognized by Gov. Kim Reynolds Feb. 14 at the Capitol in Des Moines. She is already thinking about how to use the awards.

“I love to travel and when I travel I love to find new science things I can bring back to the classroom,” she said, regarding the personal award. As far as the classroom award, “I have lots of ideas” and still need to determine which would be the best use of the money. “I’d like students to have a choice in that.”

For more information about the award and its recipients, go online to stemaward.fluidreview.com. It is open to K-12 licensed teachers in public and private schools.