November 21, 2022 – Dorris Intermediate School STEM Teacher Jason Watts has been named a 2022 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.
He is among more than 80 teachers from across the St. Louis metropolitan area recognized this year as an example of “truly outstanding educational excellence.”
The Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards, now in its 33rd year, is one of the region’s most well-known teacher recognition programs. The program annually honors educators – from kindergarten teachers to college professors – who are examples of excellence in their field.
Recipients represent school districts in Franklin County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, St. Louis City and St. Louis County (Missouri); and Jersey County, Madison County, Monroe County and St. Clair County (Illinois).
Mr. Watts has been a teacher and basketball coach at Dorris Intermediate School since 2010. Principal Kevin Stirnaman says Watts’ teaching skill and consistent desire for students to reach their potential have positively impacted the lives of many students.
“The area where Mr. Watts stands out is STEM instruction,” according to Stirnaman, “In order to give all students in our school a chance to experience STEM, Mr. Watts formed an afterschool STEM Club, where he was responsible for organizing the entire program from the ground up. This program serves 200 or more students annually and is a constant source of pride for our school and district.”
Assessment data consistently showed that students in the afterschool STEM Club demonstrated high levels of academic growth. Prior to the 2021-22 school year, Watts and Stirnaman collaborated to gain approval to add a STEM class to school day course offerings. The resulting STEM class is now a part of the DIS academic program, with nearly 150 students getting a 40-minute block of STEM instruction daily.
“Mr. Watts rolled up his sleeves and developed a STEM curriculum for 5th and 6th graders, providing real world learning experiences for our kids,” said Stirnaman, “All kids from our diverse student body get a meaningful STEM experience due to the constant efforts of Mr. Jason Watts.”
In addition to the STEM club and classes, Watts also organizes parent/student STEM nights, such as the Caine’s Arcade Family Night, where students build their own board or arcade games from recycled materials. Hundreds of students and parents attend this event every year, with everyone playing the games the students developed.
Watts is grateful to the Collinsville CUSD 10 Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Skertich and Principal Stirnaman for the opportunity to share his passion for STEM with the students of Dorris Intermediate School.
“I know from personal experience that you cannot dream of a future you don’t even know exists, so it is very important to me that our STEM programs work for students of all abilities and levels, allowing them to develop a broader outlook on personal and professional possibilities,” says Jason Watts.
“Students are eager to learn more about their world and how it works. The best parts of my day are the “aha” moments when something clicks with a student for the first time. After that, there is usually a big smile, and then that student is never the same. They are more because they were able to understand a concept so fundamentally that they can’t go back to not knowing. That is a pretty powerful thing to see happen,”
To commemorate his achievement, Emerson presented Mr. Watts with an engraved crystal apple from Tiffany & Co.
Dorris Intermediate School serves fifth- and sixth-grade students in Collinsville Community Unit School District #10. CUSD 10 comprises 13 schools, serving 6,100+ students PreK-12 in Madison & St. Clair Counties in southwestern Illinois.