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March 31, 2022

Ames Middle School Teacher Named Trailblazing STEM Educator

Katrina Williams, an Ames Middle School Alternative Learning Program (ALP) math teacher, has been named a Trailblazing STEM Educator. This award, put forth by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Challenger Center, celebrates five K-12 educators who go above and beyond to inspire the next generation of explorers and innovators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Williams was nominated by Iowa State University associate professor of aerospace engineering Dr. Kristin-Yvonne Rozier, who has collaborated with her on STEM outreach. 

Williams has been an educator for over 28 years. Her nomination demonstrated the incredible efforts teachers make to empower underserved and underrepresented students in STEM while using unique strategies, tools, and lessons in and out of the classroom to further energize students, especially throughout the difficult circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I first met Katrina when I sat behind her at a public lecture by an astronaut on the Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission,” says Dr. Rozier. “I was equally fascinated by the lecture and the rich context and interpretation that Katrina gave before and after it to the children sitting on either side of her.”

Williams’ enthusiasm for teaching and for reaching underrepresented groups is a passion she is known for at Ames Middle School. During the pandemic, she creatively taught her students about PPE and other COVID support programs. Williams frequently hosts STEM-focused after school activities, field trips, and career expos. 

“AMS is a natural fit to further STEM leadership and education,” says Williams. “I am humbled and grateful.” 

Nominees for the STEM Trailblazer award must be a K-12 educator and detail how they bring real-world STEM experiences to students. AIAA and the Challenger Center received over 40 nominations. Each teacher, and their respective schools, will be awarded $5,000. In addition, each teacher will receive free access to Challenger Center STEM programming. One of the five educators will be named the grand prize winner and be invited to join Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s nonprofit, at a future New Shepard launch.

“Katrina is truly a genius at connecting real-world STEM careers and innovations to meaningful educational experiences that ignite students’ imaginations and inspire them to pursue STEM,” said Dr. Rozier. “In addition to her exemplary classroom teaching, she goes above and beyond to engage students spanning K-12 outside the classroom. She is truly the embodiment of a Trailblazing STEM Educator!”