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Career Center instructor, Robotics lead mentor named STEM Educator of the Year

From Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Press Release
March 3, 2023

LANSING, Mich. — The MiSTEM Network team in region 2 – covering southeast and southcentral Michigan – hosted their 4th Annual Recognition Ceremony, to honor educators and community partners for their commitment to cultivating a vibrant STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) ecosystem in Michigan. 

“The Annual Recognition Ceremony is a great opportunity to celebrate the community partnerships and educators that are crucial to creating a vibrant STEM ecosystem in our state,” said Megan Schrauben, MiSTEM Network Executive Director. “MiSTEM is committed to investing in STEM education and empowering our educators as they prepare students for in-demand careers.” 

MiSTEM is pleased to congratulate Jill Cain, an educator of 22 years and current teacher at Three Fires Elementary School in Howell Public Schools, for receiving the STEM Integration Educator of the Year Award and $1,000 grant; John Riedeman, 12-year veteran educator, First Robotics Lead Mentor and 11-12th grade teacher at Jackson Area Career Center, on receiving the STEM Educator of the Year Award and $1,000 grant; and the Southeast Michigan Stewardship (SEMIS) Coalition, Ethan Lowenstein and Lisa Volker from Eastern Michigan University on receiving the Critical Partners Award.  

"It is an honor to recognize the outstanding work of our educators and community partners to advance the STEM culture in the region,” said Scott Heister, MiSTEM Region 2 Director. “I applaud Jill Cain, John Riedeman and the SEMIS Coalition for their continued efforts to support students on their way to a bright future in STEM.” 

These awards recognize educators and community partners with a consistent record of integration of STEM principles and high-quality STEM-related experiences for students, with a focus on:  

  • Promoting active learning and imaginative, critical and independent thinking; 
  • Developing a love of learning and appreciation for the relationship between STEM-based content and society; 
  • Building resilience and helping students learn the advantages of “failing forward;” 
  • Using design process thinking and STEM-based learning experiences; 
  • Engaging with learners beyond the classroom and creating opportunities to address the individual needs of all learners; and 
  • Using teaching techniques that are appropriate and effective with a wide variety of learning styles.   

In addition to being recognized at the March 2 MiSTEM Recognition Ceremony at Washtenaw Community College, Cain and Riedeman received $1,000 grants to help increase their impact around STEM education. Cain plans to use the grant funds to replace and upgrade existing STEM equipment to expand programming for her students and Riedeman plans to purchase items to provide more hands-on learning.  

Cain goes above and beyond to ensure that students can learn in a safe, healthy, supportive and exciting environment. She uses makerspaces to engage students and help them uncover their talents and interests by making, producing, solving, creating, collaborating and thinking. She also uses her skills and experience to motivate students, nurture their desire for learning and help other teachers integrate STEM experiences for students outside of traditional STEM classrooms.  

"As a veteran educator, I recognize the importance of cultivating a welcoming and engaging environment for my students to learn,” said Cain. “This grant will boost my classroom offerings so students can explore their talents and the exciting world of STEM.” 

Riedeman leverages his engineering experience and strong relationships with post-secondary partners to actively promote science and STEM careers for his students. He has transformed Jackson Area Career Center’s FIRST robotics team into a perennial state qualifier. His classroom has become a destination for local schools to collaborate and hone their robotics skills. Some of his former students have come back to help mentor the program that inspired them to purse STEM careers in college, illustrating the long-term impact of Riedeman’s work. 

"Having former students reach back to support my classroom shows me just how impactful STEM education is and I am grateful to play a role in that here in our region,” said Riedeman. “I look forward to using this grant to grow my classroom resources that will connect even more students to valuable STEM experiences and future careers in the field.”  

The SEMIS Coalition received the Critical Partners Award as a testament to their outstanding work towards advancing the STEM culture in the region and their positive impact on equitable access to STEM careers. They were also recognized for their advancement of 3-P (project, problem and place-based) education in the region. 

"Here at the SEMIS Coalition, we have a profound respect for the educators, students and advocates who are changing the world through STEM education,” said Ethan Lowenstein. “It is an honor to receive this award and we look forward to continuing to contribute to the vibrant STEM ecosystem right here in Michigan.”

The Educator of the Year awards ceremony served as a closing ceremony for the week-long 2023 STEAM Week + Campus Explore event hosted by Washtenaw Community college.  

MiSTEM Region 2 is comprised of six counties from southeast/south central Michigan, including: Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw Counties. Their work aims to unite education, business and community partners across the state by creating pathways for all students to consider and purse high-wage, high-demand careers in STEM. Their mission is to be the catalyst for equitable access and engagement in authentic STEM experiences in every community in Michigan.

MiSTEM Educator Awards
Pictured, left to right: Ethan Lowenstein, Lisa Volker (Southeast Michigan Stewardship Initiative); Scott Heister (MiSTEM Network); Jill Cain (Three Fires Elementary School, Howell Public Schools); John Riedeman (Jackson Area Career Center, JCISD).