How One Heart of Education Award Winner Brought STEAM to School


Still Time Left to Nominate Outstanding CCSD Teachers for Fourth-Annual Heart of Education Awards

At Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, teacher Kevin Chung has students thinking about some unusual concepts.

For instance, what is the best approach to designing a functional robot arm? And what is the key to building a vehicle powered by a mousetrap?

These are just a few of the complex projects students tackle through the Science Olympiad program Mr. Chung created at his school.

Through the program, students learn STEAM concepts (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) by participating in competitive events that require teamwork and problem solving.

In just three years, Mr. Chung’s program has more than doubled in participation, with his school ranking third in a state Science Olympiad competition.

“This gets kids to think outside the box,” Mr. Chung explains. “The problems they encounter (in Science Olympiad) aren’t necessarily solvable through a textbook.”

The impact of Mr. Chung’s program is largely why he was named a winner at The Smith Center’s third-annual Heart of Education Awards, honoring outstanding teachers in Clark County School District (CCSD).

Each year, several hundred finalists for this awards program are recognized at a red-carpet event at The Smith Center, which includes live entertainment, swag bags and a prominent keynote speaker.

The top 20 teachers are named winners, with each receiving a $5,000 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to their school.

The Smith Center just opened nominations for its fourth-annual Heart of Education Awards in October – and community members can still nominate CCSD teachers through January 18.

“I really appreciate the recognition,” Mr. Chung says. “Hopefully it will lead other teachers to see the value in giving up their time and doing something nice for the community.”

Sacrificing to Build Young Minds

Running the Science Olympiad program has required no small sacrifice on Mr. Chung’s part.

He invests hours of his free time after school and on weekends to help students prepare for Science Olympiad competitions throughout the year.

He also pays out of pocket for many materials students use.

“It’s something that I enjoy and I’m passionate about,” he says.

Mr. Chung even took a six-week course on java script at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas so he could teach it to Science Olympiad participants for a specific project.

“It was pretty tough,” he admits with a laugh. “If I don’t take the time to learn that language in a way I can communicate it with students, I’m not a very good leader for them.”

Nominate a Teacher Today

The Smith Center created the Heart of Education Awards to honor teachers just like Mr. Chung.

Targeting to promote recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers, this annual awards program recognizes CCSD educators who go above and beyond.

Any community member can nominate an outstanding CCSD teacher for the fourth-annual Heart of Education Awards through January 18, 2019.

To nominate a teacher, visit






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