The STEM Connection Staff
About Vera Vander Kooy
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 for elementary and middle school aged children for more than 15 years.
Vera’s love of the sciences began as a child as she spent hours by the seashore, playing in the woods near her home learning about the plants and animals she discovered. She continues to be passionate about the outdoors, discovering flaura and fauna and finds joy in sharing her love and knowledge with others.
But Vera’s love of science and nature didn’t stop at her own doorstep. She has always wanted to help others appreciate why bright flowers usually grow in sunny areas, how water can get clean in wetlands, what kinds of math people who build bridges use, what bugs eat, and so much more.
To complement her inherent love of the sciences, Vera studied science Education at Calvin College and gifted and talented programming at Grand Valley State University. After graduating she was a 5th and 6th grade classroom teacher and middle school science teacher. During this time she witnessed her students excitement when ever they had the chance to experience hands on STEM activities. If the children had an opportunity to discover a concept through meaningful tactile experiences they seemed to master the knowledge faster.
After five years of teaching, Vera and her husband started a family and while she left the traditional classroom, she wasn’t yet ready to give up sharing her love of STEM education entirely. She continued teaching, leading science enrichment classes and tutoring. She has served as the K-8 science lab facilitator at St. Monica (Indianapolis) for the past 12 years where she has instructed children kindergarten through eighth grade in STEM learning opportunities.
Vera is a member of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. and the National Science Teachers Association.Vera and her husband, Mark, purchased the Moore Farm in 2008 with the goal of respecting the land and educating others about the importance of urban farms, green space and water ways. Moore Road Farm is a city farm for everyone. They have three children and a dog named Dutch who enjoys the outdoors as much as do the Vander Kooys. Vera’s teaching philosophy is, “Children learn best when they discover knowledge for themselves.”
About Mary Stumpf
Mary Stumpf is a STEM Connection facilitator and contributes to the development of our program curriculum. She has a Master’s Degree in Organic Chemistry from Purdue University at Indianapolis and 15 years of industry experience in the laboratory at Dow. Throughout her career, she has also taught science to preschool through college students in traditional and non-traditional settings. She considers STEM to be a lifestyle and believes that integrating the connections between math and science into everyday experiences helps to spark the inner scientist, mathematician, and engineer in all of us.
The STEM Connection has been the perfect place for Mary to share her enthusiasm for math and science through hands-on learning, curiosity-driven inquiry, and creative problem solving. She helps program participants experience that science and math are not simply limited to subjects you only study in class through books, but it is everywhere in the world around us, and technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. She believes that by exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore relevant STEM-related concepts, they will develop a passion for it.
A life-long native of Indianapolis, Mary spends her free time reading, creating, playing tennis, hiking, and exploring with her children.
About Angela Fitzgerald
Angela Fitzgerald is an instructor and curriculum developer for The STEM Connection. She has been involved in middle school math and science education in the Indianapolis area since 2003. Angela’s interest in science began as a child while playing outside and going on nature walks with her family. She always enjoyed science and math classes in school, especially when she got to do science experiments and problem solving activities. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher in order to help children and young adults develop a positive attitude about math and science, and to help them have a better understanding of the world around them and how it works.
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 in Indianapolis. Angela recently stepped out of the classroom full time in order to spend more time at home with her two young daughters.
As an educator, Angela loves when students are actively engaged in their learning through hands-on activities and experiences. She most values the STEM disciplines for their ability to foster students’ curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving skills. 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.
About Stacie Hernandez
Stacie Hernandez has 14 years experience in Occupational Therapy and 8 years of experience in education as a classroom teacher. Stacie has worked with children from preschool age through 6th grade, and currently teaches 4th grade at St. Monica Catholic School. She also has worked with Marian University as an instructor in their summer STEM camps for children, after school programming, and with curriculum development. For the past three years, she has enjoyed helping The STEM Connection grow as a summer camp instructor, STEM@Night instructor, and developing strong, engaging STEM curriculum for our various programs.
Her most important reason for becoming a teacher is the desire to help children develop a love of learning in a positive, nurturing environment. Giving children the opportunity to fall in love with nature and develop their curiosity is one of the things she loves about The STEM Connection. Her family includes her husband, four sons, and Salsa, the family dog. She enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, and watching her four sons’ many sporting events.