Irvine Educators, STEAM Programs Honored During Inaugural Greater Irvine Chamber Distinguished Educators Awards

Friday, October 15, 2021

Main News Photo

Irvine educators and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) programs were honored during the Greater Irvine Chamber Distinguished Educators event sponsored by Chapman University and held at the Hilton Irvine on Oct. 13.

“The Greater Irvine Chamber celebrates Irvine’s world-class education as part of what helps the city live up to its promise as a model master-planned community. The quality of education in Irvine is a key factor in sustaining economic vitality in the region; it’s what ensures we continue to produce a 21st-century workforce,” said Bryan Starr, president and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber. “Our world-class schools, colleges, and universities are vital community partners. We commend all of our talented and committed educators and the programs they lead.”

Chapman Provost Norma Bouchard, Ph.D., provided the sponsor welcome for the inaugural event.

“Chapman University is honored to be the presenting sponsor for such an important effort,” said Provost Bouchard. “Orange County’s rich commitment to education at all levels is indeed both distinctive and admirable. We are grateful to be a part of this tradition at our campus in Orange and our Rinker Health Sciences Campus in Irvine, and through the Chamber’s Distinguished Educators event to honor some of the outstanding practitioners of education in our community.” 

Chapman University is a Greater Irvine Chamber platinum-level Leaders Circle partner.


EVENT PROGRAM: Meet the Honorees


Meet the Honorees:

Michael Dennin, Ph.D.


Michael Dennin, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine

Dr. Michael Dennin has been a professor of physics and astronomy at University of California, Irvine since 1997 and is now the vice provost for teaching and learning and dean, Division of Undergraduate Education. His research focuses on the dynamics of foams and the modeling of ice mélange in fjords. He has been named a Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar and recognized with the UCI Academic Senate Award for Teaching. He is passionate about public outreach in the area of science – appearing on numerous television programs. Dr. Dennin serves as an expert on the podcast Fascinating Gadgets, Gizmos, and Gear-Based Technologies, where he explains how to make fictional technology a reality. Recently, he published a science outreach book on the intersection between science and faith: Divine Science: Finding Reason at the Heart of Faith, from Franciscan Media.

Megan Seager


Megan Seager, Beacon Park School

Megan Seager is celebrating her 20th year of teaching. She has taught third and fifth grades during her career and is currently an Elementary Science Specialist. She teaches hands-on science to fourth- and fifth-grade students at Beacon Park School. While teaching elementary science for the past thirteen years, her greatest joy is seeing the “ah-ha!” moments as students experience how things work, solve problems and conduct experiments. She said, “It has been such an honor and privilege to teach in the district science program.” Megan is most proud of the opportunity to work with students of various learning needs and watch them develop a zeal for science.

Kimberly Hermans


Kimberly Hermans, Woodbridge High School

Kimberly Hermans is an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow and Computer Science teacher at Woodbridge High School. Kimberly has taught math and computer science for 15 years and five years of lecturing at California State University, Fullerton and University of California, Irvine. During her time at Woodbridge, Kimberly has designed and implemented a four-year computer science pathway, served as a career and technical education mentor for Information and Communications Technology, EdTech Mentor, and advisor for Computer Science Honor Society and Girls Who Code Club. Outside of the classroom, Kimberly is an AP Mentor and an AP Consultant with the College Board and actively participates as an AP reader for AP Computer Science.

Michael Campbell


Michael Campbell, Irvine High School

As the automotive instructor at Irvine High School, Michael Campbell started his automotive journey a long time ago, assisting his father to build and repair classic cars at his home in Long Beach. Like many of his students, his automotive education officially began in an auto shop program in high school. Upon completing three years of auto shop at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, he started his career as an entry-level automotive technician. After earning Automotive Service Excellence certifications over the years, he moved upward from small service garages to larger technician companies and eventually a Ford dealership. It has been his lifelong passion to work on cars, and now teaching future automotive technicians. 

Gary Rybold, Ph.D.


Gary Rybold, Ph.D., Irvine Valley College

For the last three decades, Dr. Gary Rybold has taught and coached public speaking and debate at Irvine Valley College, where his teams won 18 national championships. His recent projects include converting communication courses to online and a dual-enrollment program where first-year high school students learn public speaking and debate through college courses. He also consults with companies on communication skill training. With 20 years of debate experience in China, starting with a U.S. Department of State grant (2003) and a Fulbright-Hayes grant (2007), he has trained thousands of Chinese students and instructors in communication and critical thinking. He has published two textbooks for the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (Beijing). In 2018, his publisher converted his 12-hour workshop on public speaking into a video series to train university English instructors throughout China.

L. Andrew Lyons, Ph.D.


L. Andrew Lyon, Ph.D., Chapman University

Dr. Andrew Lyon currently serves as the founding dean of the Dale E. and Sarah Ann Fowler School of Engineering at Chapman University. Before arriving at Chapman in 2014, he spent nearly 16 years at the Georgia Institute of Technology as a chemistry and biochemistry faculty member, directing a research program investigating new biomaterials for regenerative medicine applications. In addition to his role at Chapman, Dr. Lyon is the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Sanguina, Inc. and SelSym Biotech, Inc., two early-stage biotechnology companies. He is the recipient of the NSF CAREER, Beckman Young Investigator, Research Corporation Research Innovation, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and the National Fresenius Award.



Elementary Science Specialist Program, Irvine Unified School District

The Science Specialist program was started in 1983 by Dr. Dorothy Terman to bring equity to science teaching in the upper elementary grades.  All fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in the Irvine Unified School District receive two hours of science lab instruction each week. Each teacher provides an additional hour of science instruction in their classroom. This award-winning program is unique among Orange County school districts.  Our Elementary Science Specialists, in collaboration with classroom teachers, provide NGSS-aligned instruction. This school year — the 39th year of the program — our science labs include 35 credentialed teachers across our 29 elementary and K-8 school sites.

game design UCI


Game Design & Interactive Media, UCI Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences

University of California, Irvine is ranked fifth best for game design in California, sixth-best on the West Coast, seventh-best (top 15%) among U.S. public schools and colleges, and 21st best (top 15%) in the nation. UCI also ranked 14th best in the nation among schools offering a games-related degree program — a B.S. in Game Design and Interactive Media (GDIM) through the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. The GDIM degree prepares students to be the next generation of designers, developers, and industry leaders by providing them with the tools and training needed to reshape the field with innovative and inclusive games and other playable media experiences. The School launched its Computer Game Science degree in 2011, the same year Minecraft was released. In 2017, College Magazine named UCI the #1 school for gamers.

Engineering IVC


Engineering Academy, Irvine Valley College

The UCI-IVC Engineering Academy is a partnership between Irvine Valley College and the University of California, Irvine Samueli School of Engineering. High school senior students who apply to the UCI Samueli School of Engineering and receive an invitation letter from Irvine Valley College are eligible to be in the UCI-IVC Engineering Academy. The purpose of the Academy is to provide participating IVC transfer students with an immediate connection to the Samueli School while taking IVC courses. Benefits include a dedicated IVC counselor, guaranteed seats in key IVC courses, access to the Samueli School academic counselors, and invitations to some of the events on campus at UCI.

Art Irvine High


Digital Graphic Arts, Irvine High School

The Irvine High School Computer Graphics program is a college prep class that provides a continuous educational pathway for students interested in pursuing graphic arts, digital illustration, and design. Students begin their foundational studies with Computer Graphics, a course designed to introduce them to graphic design and digital illustration fundamentals. Through a series of practical projects, students gain a working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop, Illustrator, XD, InDesign, and After Effects, and build their historical, contextual, and hands-on understanding of digital arts and design. After the foundational course, students can continue their studies by developing a professional design portfolio in advanced computer graphics. Projects typically include editorial design, book cover design, poster design, character design, app design and prototyping, packaging design, and branding/identity design.

Math department Concordia University Irvine


Math Department, Concordia University Irvine

Concordia University Irvine’s Mathematics Department is unique among STEAM fields because it predominately comprises females with advanced degrees. The department has implemented teaching strategies to impact various learning styles through “inquiry-based learning,” which incorporates individual and collective learning strategies. The department also offers a distinctive general education course in CUI’s Enduring Questions & Ideas core curriculum. The mathematics course incorporates strategies designed to increase the perspective and understanding of what mathematics is and how it relates to the great questions of humanity. The course is intentionally paired with a philosophy course to investigate and consider relationships between the two fields. 


For more information about Greater Irvine Chamber signature events and awards programs, click here.

Category: Education Excellence, awards, Greater Irvine Chamber, Irvine