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A new feather in the S-O STEM cap

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Sibley-Ocheyedan High School and science teacher Mike Wedge have reason to celebrate. Wedge and the school have received an award for the efforts made in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Wedge rec...

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Sibley-Ocheyedan High School science teacher Mike Wedge (far right) has been awarded the 2015 STEM Education Award for Inspired Teaching for the Northwest Iowa region. Pictured with Wedge are Sibley-Ocheyedan High School Principal Brent Town and Molly Faber, Northwest Iowa Regional STEM manager, who presented the award. Robin Baumgarn/Daily Globe

SIBLEY, Iowa - Sibley-Ocheyedan High School and science teacher Mike Wedge have reason to celebrate. 

Wedge and the school have received an award for the efforts made in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Wedge received the 2015 STEM Education Award for Inspired Teaching for the northwest region.
The contest was announced by the governor’s STEM Advisory Council in November 2014. K-12 STEM teachers were eligible to be nominated. Molly Faber, Northwest Iowa Regional STEM manager, said approximately 150 educators were nominated statewide, with roughly 25 from the northwest region.
“I would say northwest Iowa is very competitive because there (are) a lot of phenomenal teachers doing great things,” Wedge said.
Applicants were nominated by a fellow teacher, school administrator, parent or student.

After the nomination process, each teacher was required to send in an application and resume for review. Those applications were then judged to determine the six winners around the state.
“(It’s) very humbling. (I’m) honored. Even here at S-O, everybody’s doing awesome things,” Wedge said. “I was telling someone I kind of feel a little insufficient compared to some of the people that are just doing phenomenal things.
“It’s exciting - there are great things going on around Iowa.”
Wedge attributed the STEM success statewide to the regional STEM managers empowering teachers and support from the state legislature. Currently, Iowa budgets $5 million annually for STEM initiatives and education opportunities.
“It’s a great network the state has put together to help the teachers,” Wedge said.
The $3,000 award will be split evenly between Wedge and the school. Faber said the money could be used for whatever Wedge deemed fit. He intends to use his portion to take renewal credits, and noted that the school’s portion will likely be divided among his fellow educators for classroom supplies.
Faber praised Wedge’s efforts during the check presentation.
“We just want to congratulate Mike. He’s the champion of STEM in the northwest,” Faber stated. “He’s a model for other teachers, especially for those folks trying to break into the STEM facets.”
Brent Town, the Sibley-Ocheyedan High School principal, was also pleased with both Wedge and the school receiving the award.
“I think it’s awesome,” Town said. “Mike’s very much willing to try new things. He’s an outside-of-the-box thinker and teacher.
“He’s going to get kids to be hands-on, and they are going to know exactly why they’re doing something. There’s no such thing as busywork in Mr. Wedge’s classroom.”
Wedge complimented his fellow teachers and administrators for their contributions to S-O’s STEM culture.
“It’s cool for Sibley, because we’ve got teachers doing great stuff in all the grades,” Wedge said. “We each empower each other.
“Without administrators supporting us, we could never do the things we wanted to do. Every administrator at S-O has supported us as we try to expand STEM in all the grades. That’s a huge ... unspoken advantage that we have, too - we have people who support us. … It’s a joint effort.”
In addition to his teaching duties, Wedge participates in the state think tank for STEM and took part in an externship in 2010 with Diamond Vogel to learn how science lessons at the school level are applicable in real world settings. He shared the experience has molded his current teaching methods.
The six state winners will be recognized during a ceremony March 30 during the state’s annual STEM Summit. Kemin Industries of Iowa sponsored the award. Sibley-Ocheyedan introduced STEM-centric educational opportunities in 2009.

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