Theresa Goltermann was just one of hundreds of people in orange and black — the colors of Tabb Middle School — who gathered for a schoolwide group photo Monday morning.
But soon Goltermann was in front of all them, cheered on as she found out she was the Region II teacher of the year and a finalist for Virginia teacher of the year.
The students, teachers and staff of Tabb assembled to take a picture to send to C.E. King Middle School in Houston. Tabb adopted the school as part of a “Principals Helping Principals” program that connected schools hit by Hurricane Harvey with schools wanting to help out.
The group photo also made for a good opportunity to surprise Goltermann.
After teachers and staff quieted down the 850 preteens and teenagers excited for a little time outdoors on a nice day, they posed for a photo, carrying a banner that said, “TMS is behind you, King Middle.”
Then senior school division staff, Goltermann’s family and Steven Constantino, the state Department of Education’s chief academic officer, emerged from a nearby trailer for the announcement of Goltermann’s award.
Region II contains 16 school divisions throughout Hampton Roads, and as a regional winner, Goltermann is one of eight finalists for the state award. Goltermann was named division teacher of the year in May. At the time, she was Theresa Guthrie; she got married over the summer.
Goltermann teaches STEM — short for science, technology, engineering and math — and leads several science and robotics clubs and teams at Tabb. She has been a strong proponent of STEM classes, clubs and projects throughout the division.
“I think it’s really important that we’re preparing the next generation of STEM pioneers. You are the future,” she said to the students.
Goltermann pitched STEM classes about five years ago, and her initial idea blossomed into classes on programming, engineering and digital literacy.
Before she taught STEM, she led after-school activities where she saw students craved time to build and tinker.
And that’s still the basis of a lot of her work.
Goltermann told the Daily Press in May that she doesn’t lecture and gives students time to be hands-on with projects and solving problems themselves.
In her Ready, Set, Go elective, students undertake biomedical, mechanical, environmental, electrical and aeronautical engineering projects. For the final class project last year, Goltermann took the class on a kayak trip to help the students connect with their task — designing robots to clean the Chesapeake Bay.
They used household materials and programming and robotics kits, worked with a budget, justified costs and presented their work to visitors. They came up with robots that could theoretically filter dead algae, absorb fertilizer runoff or collect trash from the water.
Right after the big group photo and receiving her recognition, Goltermann scanned the crowd of students for her class — she was eager to get back to teaching.
“We have a robotics activity during this class,” she said.