Reynoldsburg's Rob Niedermeyer will be among 11 educators statewide competing for the 2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year award.
Niedermeyer, 39, was named the District 9 Teacher of the Year, beating more than two dozen others nominated from one of the school districts and career centers in all or a part of 13 counties, including: Franklin, Pickaway, Fairfield, Hocking, Athens, Perry, Licking, Muskingum, Coshocton, Guernsey, Tuscarawas, Morgan and Holmes.
Niedermeyer has been teaching for nearly nine years, the last four in Reynoldsburg. He teaches science at the STEM Middle at Baldwin Road Junior High School, 2300 Baldwin Place.
His students have hatched chickens, developed an aquaponics system, studied the plants they grow in the school's greenhouse and programmed a robot to work in garden beds.
He also leads the STEM Outdoor Innovation Lab, an indoor-outdoor space aimed at helping students learn about sustainability and growth.
"Once a week, I go in and do some maintenance in the SOIL Lab, mowing grass, checking weeds and maintaining that space. I've been spending a lot of time figuring out how to fit more students and projects into the lab," Niedermeyer said.
Much of the rest of the summer has been spent preparing for the coming school year, including plans for Niedermeyer's students to become trout farmers.
Using a grant from the Ohio Department of Education and a 75-gallon tank, Niedermeyer's class will raise rainbow and brown trout from eggs. Once old enough, the fish will be released in local waterways, he said.
Niedermeyer said he was "shocked" to learn he received the honor for District 9. He was nominated by fellow Baldwin Road teacher Heather Gerbus and had to submit a lengthy application.
"I didn't think I was anywhere qualified for it. I wasn't going to put in the application -- there's like five or six essays, a bio, letters of recommendation, a video of me teaching class," Niedermeyer said. "I told my class about it and they actually gave me a hard time about doing the work -- kind of the same things I tell them -- so they convinced me to do it."
The Ohio Department of Education has recognized the Ohio Teacher of the Year since 1964. To be eligible, educators must have at least five years of experience as a K-12 teacher and must work directly with students at least 50% of the time. The winner will be announced in early September.
The state board of education is divided into 11 districts -- encompassing several school districts and about 1 million residents each.
"As we read through his application, we were impressed by the detail and commitment Mr. Niedermeyer made to improving the experience for his students, his connections to the community, and his desire to continue his own lifelong learning which is shown through the innovations he brings to classroom," said Ohio Board of Education 9th district representative Stephanie Dodd. "Mr. Niedermeyer's ability to encourage deeper thinking is one that will have a lasting impact on his students' lives and the communities they live in."
Niedermeyer also was the middle-school winner for the Columbus Parent/ThisWeek Community News 2018 Teachers of the Year. He said the awards have helped him expand his professional network.
"I'm able to learn new things and find new ideas through them -- it allows me to reflect on my own learning. Going through the application process allowed gave me a chance to better myself by seeing what other people are doing," he said.
Niedermeyer earned a bachelor of science in human ecology in 2004 from Ohio State University. He graduated from the Ashland University bachelor's plus master's teacher licensure program in 2009 and earned a master of science in education from Ashland in 2017.