Vera Vander KooyExecutive 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.
Stacie HernandezProgram 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.
Krista HersheyDevelopment 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.
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 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 is a currently 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.
Ann Niednagel joined The STEM Connection as a facilitator in the fall of 2021. She earned her masters of education from Indiana University and taught middle school in Perry Township. Most recently she facilitated environmental education lessons as Outdoor Ann in public and private schools for over 15 years. She served on the board of the Environmental Education Association of Indiana, EEAI and is one of the founding committee members of Indiana Children and Nature Network, ICAN. Ann’s personal mission is to foster the sense of wonder that’s found outdoors.
Jennifer has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Rockford College. She taught several years for Indianapolis Public Schools before deciding to stay home with her boys who are now in high school. She’s led field trips at Tuttle Orchards for the last six years. Jennifer loves connecting with students and guiding them with hands-on learning that field trips provide. When she is not working she loves to travel, read, exercise, play board games, spend time with her family and her two beagles.
Angela FitzgeraldDirector 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.
Eileen WoddaProgram Manager
Eileen Wodda is a Program Manager for The STEM Connection. She manages Summer Camp, registrations, and the website. 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.
Ruth WolffAdministrative Coordinator
Ruth Wolff is the Administrative Coordinator for The STEM Connection. She has worked in the non-profit sector of Indianapolis for more than 15 years, providing operational support for organizations large and small since 2006. Ruth grew up across the Midwest but calls Indianapolis her hometown. She graduated from Culver-Stockton College (Missouri) with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Art, following that up with a master’s degree in Arts Administration from Indiana University. Her passion is to enable incredible educators, facilitators, and artists to do their best work.
Cathy DudaOnsite Coordinator
Cathy attended Purdue University, where she received an Associate degree in Computer Technology. Cathy participated in the Train a Facilitator program and has facilitated many TSC Day Camps and Summer Camps. Cathy loves being outdoors, especially if it is on the beach, spending time with her family and reading.
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 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.
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 University. 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.
Harlie joined The STEM Connection in the summer of 2021. She is currently a third-grade teacher at Hudsonville Christian school in West Michigan. She earned an undergraduate degree from Calvin University in Elementary Education and Integrated Science. She is very excited to conduct and provide innovative STEM activities and opportunities for children this summer.