Thursday, November 10, 2016

By Andy Goodell

Lori Ihrig has earned one of the University of Iowa College of Education’s most prestigious awards, which is named after the very mentor that helped shape her career in science education.

Ihrig, Supervisor for Curriculum and Instruction at the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa College of Education, says she was touched to learn that she had earned the Yager Educational Accomplishment Honor. The honor, named for Dr. Robert E. Yager, Professor of Science Education, recognizes the impactful career Ihrig has carved out in science education.

Ihrig, the first in her family to attend a university, earned a Bachelor of Science in Science Education in 1998 and a master’s in Science Education in 2002 from the University of Iowa College of Education. Yager was one of Ihrig’s professors when she was earning both degrees. Ihrig says she is really appreciative of the fact that she was able to learn from Yager.

“The work that he did with the Science-Technology-Society approach to science education has a huge impact on the work I do and how I approach science teaching,” says Ihrig.

The Yager award is presented each year to a UI College of Education graduate who has demonstrated significant accomplishment or innovation in the K-12 setting. It was established by Emeritus Professor Robert E. Yager, who over the past 59 years has helped the College of Education earn a well-deserved international reputation as a leader in science education.

Ihrig says Yager taught her to look at how science intersects with society and helped her focus on the idea of developing science literacy. While working with Yager and other faculty as she earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees, Ihrig said her previous notions about what it meant to be a good science teacher were reformulated, which shaped her career in a multitude of positive ways.

“I have been fortunate enough to study with Dr. Yager and be mentored by the Director of the Belin-Blank Center, Dr. Susan S. Assouline,” says Ihrig.

Assouline nominated Ihrig for the Yager award and says she deserves the recognition due to her phenomenal impact on students throughout her career. She says Ihrig has emphasized developing the talents of her students both when she was a classroom science teacher and now in her role at the Belin-Blank Center. Before coming to the Belin-Blank Center, Ihrig was a classroom science teacher and had a productive working relationship with Assouline.

“To know that someone’s in your corner and batting for you to succeed as you move in and out of your work every day is huge,” says Ihrig.

These days, Ihrig develops and runs programs for gifted students through the Belin-Blank Center, while also teaching summer classes through the Secondary Student Training Program. She also runs STEM Excellence and Leadership in Rural Schools. Assouline says Ihrig has done exceptional work in executing the goals of these programs thanks to her collaborative spirit, which readily recognizes the strengths of her colleagues.

“She’s a wonderful colleague,” says Assouline. “She’s not only effective, but effective and gracious.”

To this day, Ihrig remains steadfast in her enthusiasm for students and developing ways to see them reach their highest potential. This is especially important for Ihrig because she sees science education as a big part of everyday life.

“What I love about science education is working with students to create a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the world that we all live in and interact with every day,” Ihrig says.