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Top Tech Teacher of the Year

Posted 09/10/2010 by Mateo Rocha

Stacey Fornstrom receives an APEX award for his achievements as a unique teacher and enthusiast of the development of educational technology.

Stacey Fornstrom works with Computer Magnet Student Colton Stegeman. Photo by Mia Nogueira

On July 15th, 2010, Stacey Fornstrom, who is a Computer Magnet Teacher here at TJ, was nominated by his colleagues and recognized as an “…independent thinker, moving beyond the standard classroom expectations, and has created a real-world arena where students are inspired to create and learn beyond the standards,” at the 2010 APEX Awards. Fornstrom was nominated for “Top Tech Teacher of the Year” along with 38 other Denver area finalists.

Fornstrom has taught programming and software engineering for the past ten years in the Computer Magnet program and plans on continuing his career at TJ. “TJ has been really good with the opportunities it has given us; I hope that the program and my teaching keeps improving, and it will continue to help us [the school] develop more,” said Fornstrom.

Colorado’s Technology Association (CSIA) is the organization that hosts the annual APEX award; it works with government agencies and elected officials to promote growth and development in the technology industry, business growth, public policy, and education. The 2010 APEX Awards announced Fornstrom as the winner of the “Top Tech Teacher of the Year” award for the many qualities that he has shown in his approach to teaching technology in the Computer Magnet program.

The kind of atmosphere created by Fornstrom in the Software Engineering lab is one that is not seen commonly among other classrooms. His idea of implementing the curriculum to the magnet students is also unique. “Students need to have things they want to do with computers. They should bring their own enthusiasm to the class so that I can direct their learning to where we want to go with the program,” stated Fornstrom. The idea that the classroom and classes taught by Fornstrom are more of a self-motivated experience on the students’ part makes his classroom distinct from the rest.

“Fornstrom is relaxed, patient, and takes his time to help out. He goes around the classroom to assist students individually to surpass problems. He has a wide range of knowledge, and a lot of insight on the work done in the class,” said Senior Steve Barta, who has been in Fornstrom’s class for the past three years.

When Fornstrom was informed of his nomination for the APEX awards, he felt greatly appreciated by his peers. “It’s flattering and nice to be recognized by the people around you. It reassures me of the good work we are doing.”

Matthew Spampinato, who is the Computer Magnet Director, was the individual who nominated Fornstrom for the APEX awards. “One of the many great things about Stacey Fornstrom that stands out to me is his straight forward approach towards his students and the fact that he’s not afraid to constantly experiment and change his curriculum to suit the group of students he’s working with,” said Spampinato.  “He’s the kind of teacher who is so comfortable with his knowledge level that he is not afraid to introduce the newest concepts to his students, and allow them to learn right along with him.  His key to success is teaching project managements skills, so that students can succeed at all levels.”

An avid believer in the importance of teaching, Fornstrom feels right at home with his teaching career. “I love teaching; it’s a lot of fun.  It’s hard to believe you get paid for it. The students really help me stay enthusiastic about teaching because they bring fresh ideas to the class.”

Fornstrom really analyzes students’ problems and obstacles when aiding them with their projects. “The students are doing real stuff, going from an abstract problem to a real solution, whether it is programming websites or games or anything, really,” said Fornstrom. Depending on what the students aspire to do, Fornstrom provides support and knowledge to the ideas being proposed.

In the past ten years that he has taught at TJ, Fornstrom looks back at all the experiences and times he has spent working in the TJ environment. “It has been an outstanding experience. What stands out the most to me is the quality of the TJ community; the staff, the students, the parents and even the neighborhood. Everyone is very supportive and everyone wants everyone else to succeed. It is a great place to work and be a part of.”