Scranton School District's teacher Kim Cook was recently named Western Arkansas STEM Teacher of the Year by the Fenter Education Service Cooperative. Mrs. Cook was selected from the more than 1,500 STEM teachers served in the twenty-two districts served by GFESC and presented the award by Dr. Curtis Varnell, coop science director.

Mrs. Cook has taught in the Scranton School District for seventeen years, serving as elementary science and GT instructor for the district, teaching third through sixth grade.

"I have been teaching GT for the past eleven years. I would say STEM has been the emphasis area for the past 5 years. We did a variety of STEM-related projects, including coding with Ozobots, spheros and Mindstorm Lego Robots."

Cook said that STEM education is essential because it provides students an opportunity to new experiences that they would not experience in the regular classroom setting.

"It gives students a chance to create, explore and problem solve."

Dr. Varnell said that the teachers are recommended by the supervisory board, including professors from area universities, coop members and teachers from several of the schools. They are then voted on through email returns from the 22 districts.

"Each year, one science teacher is selected as science teacher of the year (in the spring) and a STEM teacher of the year in the fall. Mrs. Cheryl Ivey of Paris was a former recipient."

"When I heard my name announced, I was really surprised. I know we are doing a lot of great things in the field of STEM, but it's not often such a small school district gets honored for their achievements," Cook said.

But Cook said that the significant reward is just being recognized for the hard work and dedication to teaching.

"Teachers, especially those in our region, are often overlooked for awards even though they are superior teachers, have exemplary national test scores, stay on top of the best teaching models and techniques, and exhibit the best qualities of outstanding employees. This is a way for GFESC and the school districts to recognize these outstanding individuals."

With the guidance of Vanessa Kinney, a third grade GT students' mom, Cook's GT students in third through sixth grade have been working on a project in Scratch.mit, which is a computer programming site that allows students to create stories and games, complete with sound and animation. In the spring, students will present their completed projects at our annual GT Parent Night.