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SD2 STEM Educators Award Winners Announced

STEM Educator Award Winners


Media Contact: H. Puentes



San Diego Squared Announces 2021 STEM Educators Awards Recipients


SAN DIEGO: Today, San Diego Squared, a local nonprofit, announced the four winners of the $5,000 SD2 STEM Educators Awards, powered by the Illumina Corporate Foundation and Neurocrine Biosciences.


The Illumina Corporate Foundation SD2 STEM Educators Award recipients are Liann Page from the School of Creative and Performing Arts and Kim Morris from Morse High School. The Neurocrine Biosciences SD2 STEM Educators Award recipients are Adan Escobedo from Granger High School and Khamphet Pease from Wilson Middle School.


The awards are motivated by SD2’s desire to invest in educators as a catalyst to illuminating a path into STEM for students with untapped potential.


“When you think about the people who changed your life outside of family, there is usually an educator you think of,” said H. Puentes, Executive Director of SD2. “These winners represent that for so many, and that’s why we look to invest in educators in meaningful ways.”


“We are deeply committed to equitable access to STEM education for all students, and we are grateful for the dedicated educators paving the way,” said Sharon Vidal, Global Lead, Corporate Social Responsibility at Illumina. “We are proud to support our teachers as they lift up the next generation of innovators.”


“STEM educators like Liann, Kim, Adan and Khamphet play a pivotal role in motivating and  inspiring our local youth to explore the world around them, develop their problem-solving skills, and generate new ideas,” said Julie Cooke, Chief Human Resources Officer at Neurocrine Biosciences. “We are grateful for our teachers who help students open up to new possibilities, including careers in STEM, and are honored to support their efforts.”


San Diego Squared plans to continue to offer the STEM Educators Awards as part of a multi- year commitment to build a community of educators dedicated to empowering underrepresented students and increasing diversity in STEM-driven companies.



Illumina Corporate Foundation SD2 STEM Educators Award Recipients


Liann Page, a Science teacher at the School for Creative and Performance Arts, has been an educator for 6 years working hard to break down barriers for students in STEM. “I offer tutoring every day after school,” she said,  “often working through my lunch, so I can meet the needs of the students who need extra support, who are often underrepresented students, like me.”


Engineering From Design to Practice

Page plans to use the award funds to purchase materials and equipment to give students a hands-on experience with engineering.Due to limited resources, students currently don’t have a very interactive or hands-on experience. They can draw sketches of their models, but it’s difficult to buy materials for them to build physical models. Providing physical materials will help increase engagement and inspire students to learn more about the engineering field.



Kim Morris, a Computer Science teacher at Morse High School, has been an educator for 10 years and is passionate about empowering underrepresented students in STEM. “As an educator, I see diversity as an asset,” she said. “I am proud to show students that you do not need to come from a certain background to be successful in Computer Science.”


Increasing Computer Science Awareness

She plans to spend the grant funds on a program aimed at increasing student involvement in Computer Science. A team of students found that their peers generally had negative attitudes about Computer Science and that the students taking Computer Science classes were not very diverse. To combat this, the team started a club called “Morse Codes,” designed to be a space for students interested in Computer Science to learn, network, and explore. Their goal is to create a collaborative workspace where students can experience a taste of the industry.


Money from the grant will be used to purchase materials to revamp the lab and build the space. They also plan to purchase Arduino Physical Computing Kits, which allow students to build and program projects ranging from motion-controlled LED systems to RC cars.


Neurocrine Biosciences SD2 STEM Educators Award Recipients


Adan Escobedo, a Computer Science teacher, has experienced many firsts. A first-generation
immigrant, first to graduate high school, first to graduate college, first to get a master’s in Education, and the first to be accepted into a doctoral program, he’s no stranger to challenges.

“External barriers I experience as an underrepresented educator include not knowing how to fully articulate myself to administrators and colleagues because of the multilingual thought process I experience as an English learner,” Escobedo said.


However, he is determined to overcome these challenges. “I am a stakeholder in my community. I grew up and live in the town that I teach, and I believe that I can encourage others to succeed as I did.”


Improving Inclusivity and Classroom Conditions

Escobedo plans to spend the grant money on improving classroom conditions to create a culturally responsive environment that would encourage inclusivity for underrepresented students in STEM education. Improvements would include equipment, software, program licenses, and resources that would shift lessons toward inclusivity, by tapping into each student’s individual cultural wealth.



Khamphet Pease teaches at a school that predominantly consists of students of color. At Wilson Middle School, 606 of the 698 students identify as Black African American, Latinx, or indigenous. As the first person in her family to graduate college, she identifies with the students she serves through their shared experiences, she said. “Therefore, I am heavily invested in my students’ success and want them to feel valued for the excellence they bring to the classroom.”


Boosting the STEM and Robotics Programs

With the funds, Pease plans to buy equipment for Wilson’s after-school STEM club, including laptops, robotics, and space supplies, like 3D filament, micro-controllers, and more. In addition, the funds would help cover registration costs needed to participate in robotics competitions.


Pease also seeks to bring entrepreneurship into the curriculum to help students create a business idea they can sell and market. The grant would help fund an e-commerce website for students to sell their products online and any other supplies needed for their businesses.


About San Diego Squared (SD2)


The mission of SD2 is to empower tomorrow’s STEM leaders today by connecting underrepresented students to the power of STEM, providing access to education, mentorship, and the resources they need to lead the workforce. Learn more at