The STEM Teacher of the Year is selected by the Air Force Association, South Georgia Chapter, and State of Georgia AFA. The Air Force Association sponsors the STEM Teacher of the Year award each year to recognize the accomplishments of a STEM teacher in grade levels K-12.
Dan Farnam, a fifth-grade teacher at Moulton- Branch Elementary, Lowndes County School System, was selected as the 2018 State of Georgia Chapter STEM Teacher of the Year.
The Air Force Association is a nationwide organization dedicated to ensuring the superior aerospace power of the United States throughout the world. An advocate for STEM education, the AFA promotes aerospace education and public awareness of the critical need of a technically superior workforce.
Nick Lacey, President of the Air Force Association South Georgia Chapter, shared why he endorsed Mr. Farnam as the national STEM Teacher of the Year:
“The South Georgia chapter strongly endorses Mr. Daniel Farnam and nominates him as Georgia AFA Teacher of the Year as an outstanding STEM teacher at Moulton-Branch Elementary School in the Lowndes County School System, Valdosta, Georgia. Students are engrossed by his discoveries with his hands on science investigations. Students can be found building rockets, coding, and using an iPad to fly drones,” said Lacey. “He makes learning STEM fun and meaningful for the students, he organized two STEM clubs at the school to meet the demand and interest of the students. Mr. Farnam is an exceptional STEM teacher and worthy of the South Georgia Chapter selection as STEM Teacher of the Year.”
Farnam received three checks totaling $850, a Certificate of Excellence, a Georgia AFA STEM Teacher of the Year jacket, and other awards. The award recipient was selected as STEM Teacher of the Year against eight other South Georgia school systems.
Farnam, a Helena, Montana native, did not always want to be a teacher until there was a change of plans. “I wanted to be an engineer so I attended Montana Tech,” he said. “Montana Tech didn’t work out so I attended Western Montana College. In 1996, I graduated from Western with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.”
Farnam is humble about receiving an award for exemplary teaching. “I would have never, in a hundred years, guessed that I would win an award for teaching,” said Farnam. “I love my job and I love the students. I am so blessed to wake up each day and teach students.” With this attitude towards his profession and his belief in what STEM education can do to empower young minds, Farnam will take the Lowndes County program far.
As the science, technology, engineering, and math teacher at Moulton-Branch Elementary for seven years, Farnam believes the integration of STEM lessons into daily lives is necessary for elementary-age students. In order to meet the increasingly rigorous and technically focused demands of 21st-century living, Farnam feels strongly that elementary students should be exposed to STEM education.
“I have always loved math and science. These were my two best subjects in school and these are the easiest subjects to teach. By doing this, they will also bring benefits to all students, at all ability levels, creating an accurate, effectual and authentic education to engage them,” said Farnam. “STEM education exposes students to the greatest technology available today, allowing them to become innovative problem solvers, builders, investigative thinkers and mathematicians that solve real-world problems.”
Mr. Farnam also believes STEM education levels the playing field for students, no matter their background. “President Obama made improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education important, and he believed every American student deserved access to the highest-quality education in STEM for both their future and for the future of America.” This knowledge allows students to be creative. It encourages productivity. It increases learning potential. “People can learn things they didn’t think they could ever learn, and so, in a sense, it is all about potential.”
STEM education doesn’t care what your socioeconomic status is, your gender, race or ethnicity, or your intellectual abilities. “The best way we, as educators, can “Make America Great Again,” is by providing our students the opportunity to succeed in life,” says Farnam. STEM education is a vehicle by which Americans can continue to excel globally and keep up with the tsunami of technology that is overtaking world markets.
Dr. Debra Brantley, the principal at Moulton-Branch Elementary, says Mr. Farnam has done a good job of getting students interested in STEM classes. “It’s been quite an honor. We are one of two elementary schools in Lowndes County schools that have a STEM lab,” said Brantley. “Actually, we were the first one to have one.”
Dr. Brantley commends Mr. Farnam for his ability to get students interested in science and introducing different kinds of technology to students who wouldn’t otherwise have the exposure. “They do coding, they learn how to fly drones—all kinds of designs, they really love his class.”
Mr. Farnam shared his driving force behind teaching. “The driving force for me is the ability to empower students. Empowering student’s changes not only their life, but it changes the lives of the people around them and future people who they come into contact with,” said Farnam.
“Empowering one student has the ability to change millions of lives.”