Stevenson Middle teacher wins $100k national contest for science lab

Congratulations to Stevenson Middle science teacher Trish Morgan, who received a big surprise Thursday at a special school assembly. Her grant proposal won $100,000 from Farmers Insurance Thank America’s Teachers Dream Big Teacher Challenge. Morgan plans to use the money to build an “Innovative Invention Imaginarium” program in her classroom. Her proposal was one of five across the country to receive the most votes in Farmers Insurance’s online contest, with each winning $100,000 for their projects.

“I’m so shocked, I can’t believe it. This is going to make a huge impact on the school and the community,” Morgan said, moments after receiving the check during the assembly at which she was cheered on by Stevenson’s 600 students, as well as faculty and staff.

Morgan, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher, plans to create a program incorporating laser cutting, 3D printing, computer-aided solar cars and video game design.

“We want to incorporate engineering, coding – we have a partnership with Roosevelt, the high school next door – we have our first coding camp next Monday. But I think of it more like, if you’ve ever seen (the TV program) “Junkyard Wars,” where kids can come, get all the tools they need, for 21st century skills and they can get everything,” Morgan said.

“We are so excited about this project that we actually started a very, very low-budget, about $3,000, is all we had to create a tiny little space. Kids are lining up. We have about 40 to 80 coming through every morning. They can’t wait to get inside,” Morgan said. “We’ve been drawing them in with some basic skills like vinyl cutting and sewing. But we want to take it to the next level.”

“We’ve got an awesome crew of kids, I love this school. And my Stevenson pride runs deep,” she added.

Since reporters, state lawmakers, DOE officials and others were invited to the assembly where she would be awarded the $100,000 check that was wrapped in blue wrapping paper, Stevenson school officials devised a story to keep Morgan out of site during the day so she wouldn’t get suspicious. They said officials from the superintendent’s office were coming to make an announcement and Principal Linell Dilwith had Morgan work in an office on a grant proposal all day.

This is Morgan’s fifth year teaching at Stevenson, where she is an HSTA grievance representative. Before coming to Hawaii, she spent six years teaching at a public school in Union City, California, in the Oakland area.

“It was an honor to present Patricia Morgan with her $100,000 Dream Big Teachers Challenge grant and to simultaneously recognize her dedication, as well as the dedication of all the teachers and faculty at Stevenson Middle School, to helping our children become smarter and better prepared for the future,” said Farmers Insurance representative Bill Doherty.