Nick Krissie

Nick Krissie, right, works with fourth-graders on playing their one-string guitars last year.

World file photo

COOS BAY — A Coos Bay teacher has been named a STEM champion — one of two in the nation.

Sunset Middle School fifth-grade teacher Nick Krissie will receive the STEM Champion Award during the STEM Expo in Branson, Mo., next month. A middle school teacher from Longwood, Fla., received the other award.

This awards program honors public and private elementary, middle and high school teachers and teacher educators that have served as a champion for integrated STEM education in their schools and communities.

Krissie's students have been engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education through his implementation of "problem-centered learning activities" — like his diddley bows.

Two years ago, Krissie taught a select group of fourth-graders how to make the one-string slide guitars and helped them learn "Smoke on the Water," all the while teaching them about sound waves, calculating fret positions and the instrument's history. Last year, the entire fifth grade class — 130 students — built four-string cigar box guitars, Krissie said. Afterward, roots instrument expert Justin Johnson traveled from North Carolina to teach the students to play.

"The selection committee was very impressed with the grassroots approach that Mr. Krissie used (developing his own STEM curriculum) and the connections that he drew to other disciplines like music," said University of Arkansas head of curriculum and instruction Michael Daugherty. 

In the three years since launching this program, Krissie added more STEM learning activities, in turn increasing student participation and attracting support from other teachers, community leaders, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

The STEM Champion Awards serve as a standard of excellence for individuals who promote integrated STEM education. Each year, the International STEM Education Association seeks out individuals who have implemented STEM programs, provided professional development, encouraged others and have been instrumental in supporting integrated STEM education.