Siegfried STEM Educator of the Year Finalists Announced

Jen BloomFront Page, Press Release

Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance has selected four Oklahoma educators who excel in teaching science, technology, engineering, and/or math to be recognized at our Flight Night fundraising gala on September 14. 

Honorees were chosen from candidates spanning Oklahoma, encompassing pre-kindergarten to twelfth-grade educators, each with over two years of teaching experience. Four finalists were selected as category award winners in elementary, middle, high school, and leadership, including administrators and coordinators who support high-quality instruction.

Finalists will be recognized at Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance’s Flight Night gala on Thursday, September 14, at Tulsa Technology Center’s Riverside Campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Each category finalist will receive $2,500, including a $2,000 classroom or professional development grant and $500 for personal use.

“The Siegfried Excellence in STEM Education Awards celebrate those who have the greatest opportunity to inspire our students: their teachers,” said Flight Night board chair Bailey J. Siegfried. “The dedication and passion of these remarkable educators are the driving forces behind tomorrow’s innovative leaders and problem solvers.”

At Flight Night, one of the four finalists will be announced as the overall winner and named the Siegfried STEM Educator of the Year. This honor comes with an additional $2,500 in award money.

“Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance and our partners know it is more important than ever to support and encourage Oklahoma STEM educators in every way we can,” said Levi Patrick, executive director for Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance. “We hope that celebrating a few of the best STEM educators in our region helps amplify the creativity and dedication of Oklahoma educators who inspire and prepare their students daily.”

2023 Siegfried Excellence in STEM Education Award Finalists

CATEGORY: Leadership | WINNER: Debra Worley – Choctaw-Nicoma Park School District

With an illustrious 27-year career in public education, Debra has navigated diverse roles – including high school math teacher, math department chair, district math specialist, high school assistant principal, and virtual school director. Rooted in Choctaw, she now serves as the District Director of STEM Education. Currently finalizing her doctoral dissertation in educational leadership at the University of Oklahoma, her dedication to student growth and learning is apparent. Her innovation-driven philosophy is evident through the expansion of STEM opportunities for all students. Embracing a holistic approach, Debra has orchestrated a symphony of engagement experiences through summer camps, after-school activities, family nights, and enriched STEM coursework. This multifaceted approach bolsters students’ capacity to become problem-solvers, deep thinkers, and innovative creators.

At the core of Debra’s philosophy is the belief that sparking an interest in STEM education is the first step toward nurturing future scholars. By creating an environment that seamlessly blends self-discovery, exploration, and tailored learning experiences, she fuels the flames of curiosity within each student. Her relentless pursuit of this goal is underscored by her leadership in hosting transformative events like a family STEM event that served more than 400 students and families across the district. 

Debra’s dedication to fostering excellence, inspiring innovation, and instilling a lifelong love for learning reflects her enduring educational legacy. Through her leadership, empowerment, and unwavering commitment, she continues to meet students where they are and move them to want to know more.

CATEGORY: Elementary School Teacher | WINNER: Heather Ross – Rosa Parks Elementary School, Union Public Schools

With nearly a decade of teaching experience, Heather Ross has cemented herself as a passionate advocate for holistic and engaging education. Her journey began with an Early Childhood Education degree from OU-Tulsa, where she was recognized with the “Outstanding Senior” award for cutting-edge work in constructivist pedagogy. While helping students transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten, Heather prioritizes play-based learning and welcomes pre-interns and interns into her classroom, nurturing future educators while supplying her school with potential candidates. An advocate for comprehensive child well-being, Heather pursued a master’s in Integrated Childhood Well-Being, aligning her interest in trauma-responsive teaching with a research project in association with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She plays a supportive role in the research by introducing an innovative approach that utilizes “loose parts” for mathematical exploration, enabling students to delve into profound understanding.

Beyond the classroom, Heather has formed partnerships with Global Gardens and Discovery Lab, intertwining science and STEM education with tangible experiences. From transforming her classroom into a doctor’s office to cultivating engagement through meaningful projects, she blends curriculum with real-world contexts. In the realm of assessment, Heather sets her sights beyond scores, capturing growth through anecdotes, multimedia, and student perspectives. Her commitment to fostering cognitive skills like collaboration and problem-solving underscores her dedication to genuine learning experiences.

As Heather continues her journey, her fervent dedication to authentic education, nurturing curiosity, and amplifying STEM learning paints a legacy of empowered learners who question, explore, and thrive in an ever-evolving world.

CATEGORY: Middle School Teacher | WINNER: Amy Bracher – Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa Public Schools

Amy Bracher is an exceptional educator who has dedicated 16 years to shaping young minds in the fields of Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and IB Sports, Exercise, and Health Science. Holding a degree in Pre-Med Biology from Hendrix College, she shifted her career aspirations to education and has since become a force in Tulsa’s educational landscape. Having taught at various institutions, including international schools in Bangkok, Amy brings a global perspective to her teaching. Her commitment to equitable education led her to be named the 2020-2021 Rogers MS Teacher of the Year and a TPS Semifinalist Teacher of the Year.

Amy firmly believes that every student possesses the ability to learn and grow, a philosophy she practices by accommodating diverse learning styles and providing multiple avenues for comprehension. She fosters collaboration among her students, drawing on her background in coaching soccer and cheerleading to encourage teamwork and varied perspectives. Her philosophy revolves around empowering students as independent thinkers and problem solvers. By encouraging collaboration and diversity of thought, she prepares her students for real-world challenges. She also champions equitable education by advocating through the Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee and securing funding for enriching experiences.

Amy makes STEM practical and accessible, infusing her curriculum with diverse voices and real-world scenarios. Her dedication is evident in her students’ smiles, the breakthroughs they experience, and the positive impact she’s had on education. In her pursuit to cultivate critical thinkers and STEM enthusiasts, she leaves an indelible mark on her students’ lives.

CATEGORY: High School Teacher | WINNER: Reese Hundley – Vanguard Academy, Broken Arrow Public Schools

Reese Hundley embodies education in his very DNA as a third-generation teacher. His zeal for learning and growth drives him every day. With a rich background in outdoor exploration, history, and community engagement, he creates meaningful experiences for his students at Vanguard Academy, instilling a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom. With an unwavering belief in the power of relationships, Reese emphasizes collaboration and diverse partnerships as the backbone of success. At Vanguard Academy, he co-teaches a groundbreaking, student-run “Design Rotation” class that empowers students to become problem-solving consultants using the Human-Centered Design process. By fostering connections with professionals, his students develop practical skills, ethical values, and resilience that go beyond textbooks.

Reese nurtures a culture of belonging and self-discovery in his classroom. Through hands-on experiences in outdoor education and environmental science, students connect with nature and each other, gaining a sense of purpose and camaraderie. He inspires his students to embrace STEM through irresistible experiences, fostering authentic engagement and self-awareness. Reese’s commitment to growth is evident through his self-reflective practices. He measures success not just by grades but by the growth of his students in knowledge, skill, creativity, and mindset. By celebrating achievements and fostering a collaborative learning environment, he guides students toward mastery and a lifelong love for learning.

Reese exemplifies the essence of a dedicated educator who imparts wisdom, curiosity, and empowerment to his students, helping them blossom into confident and capable individuals poised to impact their communities positively and beyond.