This past Tuesday, June 12, a monthly Walton County Board of Education Meeting was held to discuss the current standings of the Walton County Public Schools system. However, an additional announcement was made recognizing three phenomenal STEM-related teachers from Walnut Grove, Loganville, and Monroe Area High Schools.
The STEM Teacher of the Year Scholarship was developed and awarded by Dr. Elmer Swartzmeyer, a veteran and huge supporter of STEM programs. Swartzmeyer himself not only entered into the Air Force, but also built missiles for Bell Aircraft in the 50s. He has since earned a PhD from Georgia State University and become involved in local STEM growth.
As a part of his personal mission to better science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, Swartzmeyer awarded the STEM Teacher of the Year Scholarship to a worthy and outstanding teacher from the Walton County School District who displayed extensive student involvement and obvious technical knowledge: Richard Hartman, from Walnut Grove High School. Hartman is an Engineering teacher as well as the sponsor for the WGHS chapter of TSA (Technology Student Association). According to the judging committee, “This year Mr. Hartman and his students not only competed in robotics competitions but hosted one for other high schools and taught a robotics workshop for younger students at the Walnut Grove Library.” In addition to recognition for achievement, Hartman will receive $2,000 courtesy of Dr. Swartzmeyer, half of which he will use to improve Engineering programs at WGHS, a plaque, and a large trophy (see below).
Dr. Swartzmeyer was furthermore so impressed by the talent of local STEM teachers that he decided to award a plaque and $500 each to runner-ups Brian Hobbs and Gino Elia of Loganville High School and Monroe Area High School, respectively. Hobbs is a Physics teacher at LHS and also “-sponsors an Xtreme Science Club. 34 of the club members earned Open Water Scuba Diving Certification this past school year. The student divers use physics as they calculate their residual nitrogen versus time under water and gas and pressure laws in the physics of diving.” Elia of MAHS is also a Physics teacher who uses unique techniques to engage students. According to the judging committee, “He uses “backward” phenomena based lesson planning that allows students to discover concepts through experiments rather than notetaking. His students use toy vehicles, catapults, car bumpers, egg cages and roller coasters to discover physics and alter outcomes based on the laws of physics. He led students in a roller coaster building STEM competition at Six Flags.”
Hartman, Hobbs, and Elia were all warmly applauded by the Board Members and audience at Tuesday’s meeting for their outstanding achievements. After the presentation of awards, Mr. Swartzmeyer commented on the nature of the STEM Teacher of the Year Award: “What I’m trying to do here is just try to foster an environment so that the students of Walton County can get some technical skill that allowed me to be where I am now.”