Our Team

Vera Vander Kooy

Executive Director

Vera Vander Kooy is the founder and executive director of The STEM Connection. She is a highly regarded STEM educator and naturalist who has facilitated hands-on standards based STEM learning experiences in elementary and middle school settings for over 15 years. To complement her inherent love of the sciences, Vera studied science education at Calvin College and differentiated programming at Grand Valley State University. She has taught 5th grade, middle school science and served as a K-8 science lab facilitator. In 2017 she received the Joe Wright Recognition of Excellence Award by the Environmental Educators Association of Indiana and along with entire STEM Connection team the Hoosier Chapter Soil And Water Conservation Society’s Education and Communications award. Currently, Vera presents, consults and trains others empowering them to provide positive STEM learning experiences.

Angela Fitzgerald

Director of Programs

Angela Fitzgerald is the Director of Programs for The STEM Connection. She has been involved in middle school math and science education in the Indianapolis area since 2003. Angela grew up in Indianapolis and attended St. Matthew School and Bishop Chatard High School. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in Middle Childhood Math and Science Education and then taught middle school math and science for twelve years Her hope is that all students have the opportunity to participate in quality STEM experiences that lead to greater interest and involvement in STEM classes and careers in the future.

Andrea Elstro

Facilitator

Andrea Elstro joined The STEM Connection in the fall of 2017. She is a facilitator for field trips and the homeschool club. She graduated from Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with a master’s degree in analytical chemistry. She has previously worked as an environmental chemist at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, a technical scientist at PTS Diagnostics, and an online instructor teaching environmental science for associate level degrees. She is enjoying teaching children about the field she is passionate about.

 

Ana Clay

Facilitator

Ana Clay joined the STEM Connection in the Spring of 2018.  She is a Field Trip Facilitator. Ana enjoys nature and loves exploring outdoors with her children. Ana has previous experience with Veterinary Technology. Ana is looking forward to passing on her love of nature and encouraging children to ask questions and being more open to new experiences.

 

Caleb Hernandez

Facilitator

Caleb is a current a middle school math teacher at St. Monica School. He is a past intern for The STEM Connection and is very excited to continue providing STEM opportunities for children. He is attending Marian University to receive a teaching license and a Masters of Arts in Teaching. 

Krista Hershey

Development and Communication Coordinator

Krista worked on The STEM Connection’s social media marketing for over a year before joining the team more permanently in her current position on staff. Krista graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Business Administration. She has experience in starting and growing a nonprofit including marketing, communications, community involvement, and volunteer coordination. She also has several years’ experience sitting on grant-making boards. Krista loves hiking and sharing new adventures with others and is excited to help tell the story of The STEM Connection.

 

Laura Ebbens

Facilitator

Laura joined The STEM Connection in the fall of 2021. She earned an undergraduate degree from Ball State in Elementary Education and minored in Spanish. She also received her masters degree in English Language Learner instruction. Laura has been an educator in Pike Township for the last 9 years and currently serves students and families aiding in technology issues. Laura enjoys the outdoors, whether it is camping, hiking, or being out on the water.

Stacie Hernandez

Program Manager

Stacie Hernandez is the  Program Manager for Summer Camp and STEM Future Leaders.  Stacie is an educator and occupational therapist with a passion for helping students of all abilities learn about and explore the world around them.  She received her Occupational Therapy degree from Indiana University and her Transition to Teaching degree from University of Phoenix. Stacie has over 20 years experience working with children, and currently works as a third grade teacher at St. Monica Catholic School and a STEM Educator for The STEM Connection.

Eileen Wodda

Program Coordinator

Eileen Wodda is the Program Coordinator for The STEM Connection. She manages communications, registrations, and newsletters. Eileen is a teacher at St. Monica Catholic School and has been in the classroom helping students explore and grow for the last 26 years. Eileen is originally from Chicago, but has been living in Indianapolis for the last 22 years. She graduated from St. Joseph College with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Spanish.

Amy Altman

Facilitator

Amy Altman joined The STEM Connection in the Spring of 2018.  She is a Field Trip Facilitator. She graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in Aquatic Science.  Amy has previously worked at the Surveys Section for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and a 319 Grant Coordinator.

 

Caroline Sperry

Facilitator

Caroline Sperry teaches Chemistry, Ecology, and Integrated Chemistry and Physics at Cardinal Ritter High School.  Caroline earned a B.S. in Chemistry at Illinois State University, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in Organometallic Chemistry.  She has two children, one of whom is serving as an Intern at the STEM Connection this summer. Caroline hopes to encourage children to become lifelong-learners and to always be curious and concerned stewards of the world.

 

Cathy Duda

Facilitator

Cathy attended Purdue University, where she received an Associate degree in Computer Technology. Cathy participated in the Train a Facilitator program and has facilitated a STEM club after school for the past year. Cathy works at St. Monica School as an instructional assistant. Cathy started to teach Digital Literacy this past school year. Cathy loves being outdoors, especially if it is on the beach, spending time with my family and reading. 

Kris Compton

Facilitator

Kris joined the STEM Connection this winter. She retired from IPS in 2018 with 33 years of experience teaching kindergarten to second grade. Kris graduated in 1986 from Ball State University, and received her Masters in Education in 2004 from Indiana Wesleyan. Kris has been married for 25 years, and has two boys ages 21 and 23. They spend their free time together camping, canoeing, fishing mostly in America’s National Parks.

Ann Niednagel

Facilitator

Laura joined The STEM Connection in the fall of 2021. She earned an undergraduate degree from Ball State in Elementary Education and minored in Spanish. She also received her masters degree in English Language Learner instruction. Laura has been an educator in Pike Township for the last 9 years and currently serves students and families aiding in technology issues. Laura enjoys the outdoors, whether it is camping, hiking, or being out on the water.