Meet the winners of the 2019 STEM Excellence Awards

For the second year, we’re proud to recognize four leaders from around the network. A teacher, a principal, an innovator, and an advocate each accepted commendation for their dedication to improving education in our state.

Below, read the formal release from Battelle praising these important leaders.

2019 Ohio STEM Excellence Awards Unveiled

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 13, 2019)—The Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN) has recognized the four winners of the “STEM Excellence Awards.” These awards recognize outstanding teachers, school leaders, or education advocates who advance quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in Ohio.

The awards were announced at the 2019 Cleveland State University STEM Education Conference, presented with support from Battelle. Nominations for the 2019 awards opened in April.

Battelle manages the Ohio STEM Learning Network as part of the company’s commitment to preparing the next generation of innovators. The network was founded in 2008 and today represents 69 STEM schools across the state.

This year, OSLN awarded the following:

Excellence in STEM Teaching Award

The Excellence in STEM Teaching Award recognizes a teacher who exemplifies integrated, STEM-infused teaching strategies and classroom innovation, and whose work has led to positive student learning outcomes. This awardee engages students in inquiry-based learning to develop creativity, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Candace Hisey is the 10th Grade Language Arts and Integrated Chemistry teacher at Bio-Med Science Academy in Rootstown, Ohio.

Hisey designed and implemented a new STEM-integrated Language Arts course for sophomore students at her school. To build scientific literacy, students in Hisey’s class created large, multi-week projects including “The Museum of the Chemical Elements.” Shorter projects including “Dance Your Reaction” and the weekly “Science Friday” combined scientific concepts with creative expression.

Hisey’s students also worked to increase the inclusivity of STEM fields. Sophomores analyzed the gaps in STEM fields, including a low engagement of women of color, and designed an intervention plan for elementary or middle school students. Programs created by Hisey’s students encouraged all students to participate in STEM and built confidence among younger learners.


Excellence in STEM Leadership Award

The Excellence in STEM Leadership Award recognizes a school-level, district, or regional leader with a proven track-record of developing effective STEM programs. This awardee supports and encourages teachers and schools to continually infuse STEM teaching strategies and embrace classroom innovation.

Melissa Durkin is the Principal of Ranger High-Tech Academy in North Ridgeville, Ohio.

In addition to managing Ranger High-Tech Academy, Durkin brings STEM pedagogy to her school district. She was instrumental in the founding of the school, which focuses on problem-based learning, STEM coursework, and makerspaces.

Under Durkin’s leadership, all teachers at Ranger High-Tech Academy receive training from the Buck Institute to embed STEM into the daily classroom environment. Technology courses at the school connect to the core academic standards through a teacher collaboration model. Durkin designed multipurpose spaces for designing, building, fabricating, and instilling collaboration between grade levels.

At Ranger High-Tech Academy, students are empowered with responsibility for video production, creating promotional materials, facilitating distance learning, extracurricular clubs, and tours of the school building. Community immersion projects connect students’ classroom learning to STEM careers.


STEM Advocate Award

The Ohio STEM Advocate Award recognizes an Ohioan who has demonstrated a passion for STEM education through public advocacy and participation in leadership organizations that advance STEM for all.

Dr. Bernetta Harrell-Snell is a State Assessment & Performance Integration Specialist at the Canton City School District.

Harrell-Snell is dedicated to advancing project-based STEM learning, researching best practices in professional development for educators, and creating activities for students and teachers to apply their learning.

Her efforts were critical for the founding of the STEAMM Academy @ Hartford Middle School, which earned designation in 2018. Harrell-Snell’s visionary focus on emphasizing project-based learning leads STEAMM Academy students to build real-world understanding over a series of culminating tasks.

She has secured professional development resources for teachers and opportunities for students. She established a Website Design Challenge for students in partnership with the Leila Green Alliance of Black School Educators and volunteered to facilitate the project with the students on her own time and at her own expense.

With Harrell-Snell’s research and advocacy, the STEAMM Academy @ Hartford Middle School has accomplished significant goals in STEM development providing major benefits to students.


STEM Innovator Award

The Ohio STEM Innovator Award recognizes an Ohioan who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the support of STEM education and outreach within his or her region. This awardee is a leader that identifies, supports, and promotes innovative practices that address important challenges in expanding access to quality STEM education.

Dick Dieffenderfer is a Technology Education Manager at the Ohio Technology & Engineering Educators Association.

His contributions bring high-quality technical, vocational education to more Ohioans over a career of service at the Ohio Department of Education, and Ohio State University. Dieffenderfer also served in the United States Peace Corps.

Recognizing this service, he was named to the Ohio Technology Education Association Academy of Fellows in 2007. Dieffenderfer is an active member in the International Technology Education Association, Career Technical Education Association, and American Association for Engineering Education. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Award from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association Council for Supervision and Leadership in 2012.

Dieffenderfer was instrumental in the development of the annual Ohio Technology and Engineering Showcase hosted at the Ohio State Fair.  Last year, more than 85,000 fairgoers were presented with educational sessions from robotics to drone racing. Throughout the 10-day event, 411 unique activities were presented, with the aim of providing Ohio educators and parents with ideas and materials to take back to their community to enhance student learning.

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

For more information contact Katy Delaney at (614) 424-7208 or [email protected] or T.R. Massey at (614) 424-5544 or [email protected].

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