Trailblazing STEM Educator Award

Each year, Challenger Center and AIAA celebrate three K-12 educators who go above and beyond to inspire the next generation of explorers and innovators in science, technology, education, and math (STEM) through the Trailblazing STEM Educator Award.


  • $5,000 award to the educator

  • $5,000 award to the educator’s school or organization

  • All recipients must be or become an AIAA Educator Associate member

  • A trip to Washington, D.C. to be honored at the AIAA Awards Gala

  • Free access to Challenger Center’s STEM education programs

  • Opportunity to attend a future space launch experience

Nomination Requirements

  • Nominee must be a K-12 educator who brings real-world STEM experiences to students

  • Past recipients are ineligible for future consideration

  • All recipients must be or become an AIAA Educator Associate member

  • Preference will be given to teachers who demonstrate active use of AIAA and Challenger Center resources in their classroom

  • Self-nominations are not permitted

  • Nominator is not required to be a current AIAA member

  • Nominator may not serve as a reference

  • References are not required to be current AIAA members

  • One of two letters of endorsement must be provided by the principal of the nominee’s school or the educator's supervisor

  • Nominations must be submitted using the online database

2024 Awardees

Challenger Center and AIAA are proud to present Jenn Donais, Sarah Leonard, and Darryl Newhouse with the 2024 Trailblazing STEM Educator Award. Winners were selected from 50 nominations from schools across the U.S. The nominations demonstrate the incredible efforts teachers make every day to empower underserved and underrepresented students in STEM while using unique strategies, tools, and lessons in and out of the classroom to further energize students.

Jenn Donais

STEM Coach
Amesbury Middle School; Amesbury, Massachusetts

With 15 years of education experience, Donais prepares students for STEM careers through innovative STEM curricula, immersive STEM days, and career fairs. As an international STEM trainer, she has facilitated professional development sessions in the United Arab Emirates, collaborated with schools nationwide on STEM development, and has contributed to journals and other platforms to improve STEM engagement. In collaboration with Challenger Learning Center at the Christa McAuliffe Center, Framingham State University, Donais founded the Massachusetts Teacher STEM Fair, providing students and teachers with STEM engagement opportunities. She is a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching awardee, Project Lead The Way Lead Launch Teacher, and Google Certified Coach.

Sarah Leonard

Career and Technical Education Department Lead
Redding Middle School; Middletown, Delaware

As an educator for 12 years, with Project Lead The Way certification, Leonard creates inclusive and equitable learning environments for all students. This school year, Leonard organized STEM Connection Stations for the district’s Education Showcase Night, collaborated with NASA Johnson Space Center to secure the loan of an authentic NASA model for the school, and will be participating in the Civil Air Patrol’s Educator Flight program. She serves as the advisor for the National Junior Honor Society and the STEM Connect Club, and she is a member of the Association for Career and Technical Education, AIAA, and Civil Air Patrol. She has been honored with the Delaware STEM Educator Award and 2024 Delaware District 2 VFW Teacher of the Year Award.

Darryl Newhouse

Engineering, Design, Mathematics, and Robotics Teacher
Foshay Learning Center; Los Angeles, California

For more than 25 years, Newhouse has been igniting students’ passion and building excitement about STEM through robotics and technology. He established an engineering pathway for middle school and high school students, and successfully implemented an academically rigorous program using Project Lead The Way curriculum. As lead coach for the school’s FIRST® Robotics team, he emphasizes not only technical skills, but 21st-century skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and team building, as well as community service. Through project-based learning activities, he has made math and science more meaningful to students, preparing underrepresented and disadvantaged youth for post-secondary opportunities and STEM careers.