LOS LUNAS — Jennifer Nilvo is not one to let the dog days of summer slow her down.
In June, she was recognized as a 2023 STEM Teacher of the Year for going above and beyond to foster STEM education in the community.
Nilvo, who was previously a K-12 STEM coordinator and gifted teacher at School of Dreams Academy, is now working at Belen Consolidated Schools as an instructional facilitator.
Nilvo was one of two educators honored through the 2023 Excellence in STEM Awards hosted annually by the Air Force Research Lab Tech Engagement Office. She was selected as the 2023 secondary education STEM teacher of the year which spans grades nine through 12.
According to a press release, the awards honor students, teachers, volunteers and other New Mexicans doing great things in science, technology, engineering and math education.
Nilvo said she was excited and humbled to receive the award.
“I am honored to know that people feel that I provide a lot to my community in the STEM world and that I support my students,” she said.
The winners were celebrated at a ceremony held June 23 at Q Station in Albuquerque. Nilvo also won $1,500 through the award that she plans to put toward her family.
“My family sacrifices quite a bit with my before and after school work, traveling and sometimes long hours and I know it’s hard on them, so I’ll probably put it toward something we can all do together,” Nilvo said.
She has received numerous recognitions for her dedication to STEM education in the community. In January, she was named a U.S. Department of Defense STEM Ambassador for the 2022-23 school year.
Nilvo also mentored students for STEM competitions through in-depth research classes. During her time at SODA, she dedicated time outside of teaching to seek out and write applications for STEM grants to advance student education.
Most recently, she secured a 2023 Meta community action grant to put toward the creation of an advanced STEM research lab at SODA — the first of its kind in a New Mexico high school.
“I want to thank the people who’ve been part of my life in the STEM world because it takes an army to do any of these things,” said Nilvo. “I work alongside some pretty amazing people. Karen Kinsman, the director of the UNM STEM-H center; who supports a lot of my crazy ideas. Dr. Shelly Gruenig with R4 Creating is a big supporter. Also, big thanks to Meta for supporting what I envision for the students in Valencia County with STEM research.”
While she will not be teaching STEM in the Belen Consolidated Schools, Nilvo says she will still be mentoring some students outside of school who want to pursue STEM research.
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.