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Kemin Sponsors 10 Years of Iowa STEM Teacher Awards

Posted April 24, 2024 by Megan Boettcher, WW Digital Communications Specialist

Before her lab bench was filled with beakers and whirring equipment, Rebecca Lucas, Global R&D Director for Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, and current member of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council was a curious kid. She remembers a day in second grade when her teacher, Ms. Isabel, took the class out to a forest and let them explore. She encouraged the students to ask questions such as, “What do you notice about this tree? What do you feel when you touch it? What does rain smell like? Why do you think different leaves look different?” After answering a question wrong about whether water expands or contracts when frozen, Rebecca knew she wanted to know everything about how the world worked.

After the field trip, Rebecca was featured in a student profile in her local newspaper and quoted as saying, “I want to be a scientist because I like to do experiments.” This early teacher-led exposure to the culture of “why,” inspired by the principles of STEM, was pivotal to Rebecca’s career—and she’s not the only one.

Rebecca Lucas

Rebecca Lucas presented to STEM teachers at the Classroom + Workplace Summit on April 10, 2024.

Ten years ago, Kemin asked more than 100 of its scientists, who have dedicated their careers to finding innovative solutions for ingredients that will transform the quality of life for people across the globe, “What inspired you to pursue science?”

Overwhelmingly, our scientists answered that they were inspired by a teacher. Seeing how teachers motivate problem-solving, curiosity, and creativity in our science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals from an early age, Kemin wanted to find a way to give back to teachers and help inspire curiosity in the next generation.

Kemin is a Founding Member of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council 

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, founded in 2014, is a collaboration between businesses, such as Kemin, educators, and government leaders to promote STEM education. Over the past 10 years, this council and its contributors have reached hundreds of thousands of students, and they continue to contribute to the improvement of Iowa's STEM indicators, such as test scores, college enrollment, and career readiness. The program also showcases the diverse and exciting STEM opportunities that exist in Iowa and beyond. Kemin is a founding member of the council and has sponsored the Iowa STEM Teacher Award for 10 years.

Kemin Supports the Iowa STEM Teacher Awards

One component of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is the Iowa STEM Teacher Award, which recognizes and rewards outstanding STEM teachers in each of the six regional STEM hubs across the state. Each year Kemin sponsors the award and gives six teachers a $1,500 award as well as a $1,500 grant for their classrooms. The award celebrates the teachers' dedication, innovation, and impact on their students' STEM learning. 

“We are delighted to acknowledge the exceptional impact that educators have had on our employees' journeys into STEM fields and their subsequent careers at Kemin," says Dr. Chris Nelson, President and CEO at Kemin Industries. "By fostering curiosity and inspiring young minds, these educators are molding a skilled workforce that will be well-equipped for their future roles. We extend our gratitude for their invaluable role in shaping the problem-solvers of tomorrow, and we take pride in honoring their remarkable contributions."

Iowa STEM Award Winners 2024
Libby Nelson, VP and General Counsel for Kemin, presented the 2024 Iowa STEM Teacher Awards.

Why Supporting STEM Education is Important to Kemin

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations are projected to increase by 10.8% from 2022 to 2032. Unfortunately, there are not enough students prepared for college-level STEM courses nationwide. In 2019, only 20% of ACT-tested high school graduates met the college-ready benchmark for STEM, and for underserved learners the percentage was even lower. 

This is why supporting STEM education and giving students an early opportunity to get curious about science, technology, engineering, and math is so important to Kemin. As our business continues to grow, we want to ensure that there are students who are pursuing a higher education in STEM and ready to jump into STEM career opportunities. 

We also acknowledge that problem-solving and creative thinking skills are not only limited to STEM careers. Learning STEM tools and encouraging students to be curious benefits them as they enter any career path. It’s important for all students to have early access to a STEM education and to teachers who encourage their pursuit of curiosity.

Practicing Corporate Social Responsibility at Kemin

Kemin is compelled by curiosity to create a better future through our commitment to charitable giving, nonprofit partnerships, and engagement in our Kemin communities around the globe. At Kemin, we center our global charitable giving and community engagement initiatives around four pillars: science and general education, affordable housing and food security, sustainability, and creation of vibrant communities.

Learn more about Kemin’s Corporate Social Responsibility projects

Megan Boettcher
Megan Boettcher, WW Digital Communications Specialist

Megan is a strategic communications professional with more than 20 years of experience writing and creating content for B2B and B2C brands.