Smithville teacher earns state STEM award

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN) has announced the winners of the 2019 “STEM Excellence Awards,” a series of competitive awards that recognize outstanding teachers, leaders, and advocates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  TSIN will honor awardees at the Tennessee STEM Innovation Summit on May 14 and 15 in Nashville. 

Nominations were open to the public in the winter of this year. 

“Tennessee’s successes in advancing STEM learning for students are due to the combined efforts of strong teachers in the classroom and innovative leaders and advocates that place STEM at the top of their priority lists,” said Wes Hall, executive director of the TSIN. “We are privileged to be able to recognize the efforts of these amazing individuals and the contributions they have made to expanding STEM throughout the state.”

This year’s awardees of the STEM Excellence Awards include: 

Excellence in STEM Teaching Award

Amy Fricks, math educator, DeKalb County High School, Smithville (biography included below)

Excellence in STEM Leadership Award

Don Bartch, principal, Overall Creek Elementary School, Murfreesboro

STEM Advocate Award

Dr. Stephanie Ivey, associate dean for research, Herff College of Engineering at the University of Memphis; director of West Tennessee STEM Hub, Memphis

STEM Innovator Award

Becky Ashe, principal, L&N STEM Academy, Knoxville

The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network is a public-private partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education and Battelle Memorial Institute, emphasizing a “kindergarten through jobs” philosophy by promoting the teaching and learning of STEM education and integrating real-world and hands-on learning in K-12 schools across Tennessee. Visit:

Excellence in STEM Teaching Award

The Excellence in STEM Teaching Award recognizes a teacher who exemplifies integrated, STEM-infused teaching strategies, 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.

Amy Fricks 
Teacher, DeKalb County High School, Smithville
Amy Fricks is a math teacher at DeKalb County High School. A native of Chattanooga, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee Technological University. In addition to teaching math, Fricks leads a STEM vision for her school district through the development of community partnerships and through mentorship of other local educators in STEM best practices. She has created and manages the DeKalb County High School makerspace and organizes county-wide STEM outreach events for local students. Fricks encourages her students to apply mathematics concepts to the solving of community-based problems and connects learning practices to career opportunities. 

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