2017 Award Recipients

The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research bestows its Distinguished Teaching Award in STEM Education to one or more recipients in the field of K–16 STEM education each year. The awards are designed to recognize educators at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and higher education faculty who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The number of awards given each year is at the discretion of the Awards and Recognitions Committee.

Our 2017 Award Recipients are:

Catherine Ennis, Ph.D.


Catherine was a professor of curriculum theory and development in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She passed away in April and received the award posthumously. Her research focused on physical education in urban school settings. She received the Distinguished Alumni Award from UNCG’s School of Health and Human Performance in 2009 and this year received the Luther Halsey Gulick Medal for accomplishment, innovation and leadership from the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

Ben Owens


Ben is a physics and mathematics teacher at Tri-County Early College High School in Murphy. After a 20-year career as a mechanical engineer with DuPont, he earned a master’s degree in teaching and left the private sector to teach in rural Appalachia. At Tri-County Early College High School, he’s the lead teacher and coordinator of the Project Based Learning program. Students work in teams with peers in different grade levels on projects of their own choosing that meet required standards.

Mary Samuels



Mary is a 6th grade science teacher, science department chair and STEM coordinator at Carroll Magnet Middle School in Raleigh. Her nominators praised her embrace of Challenge-Based Learning (CBL) and integration of technology into her lessons. As a 2014 Kenan Fellow, Samuels spent a summer working with NCSU’s ASSIST Center, which develops nano-sized health monitoring devices, and developed curriculum for her students based on her experiences there.