KODAK, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee is recovering from the shock of learning she won the 13th ORAU Extreme Classroom Makeover. Stacey Whaley, a teacher at Northview Primary STEM School, was able to get $25,000 worth of new technology for her classroom.

“I have never been so surprised in my life,” she said. “I had no idea that this is what we were coming in here for. It’s the most amazing surprise. I cannot describe it with words.”

Stacey Whaley was named winner of the $25,000 grand prize in ORAU’s 2022 Extreme Classroom Makeover. Jim Vosburg, ORAU senior vice president, made the surprise presentation on Tuesday, March 22. (Photo via ORAU)

ORAU chose Whaley, who teaches third grade, as the winner of 2022’s Extreme Classroom Makeover after reviewing the video she submitted showing her school’s need for STEM resources. The video, presented as a spoof of the Star Trek intro, shows how her students would use the technology if they won the competition through mockups of the technology she hopes to buy.

“Part of our mission is to strengthen America’s scientific workforce. That mission begins in schools like Northview,” Vosburg said. “If the technology purchased through Extreme Classroom Makeover sparks a love for STEM subjects in Stacey’s students, our investment is completely worthwhile.”

The new items bought with her winnings include an interactive projector that essentially turns the floor into a giant touchscreen, as well as iPads, virtual reality headsets, mini robots, magnets, Snap Circuits, digital microscopes and more.

“STEM learning is something that I consider to just enhance their learning. They can read a book all day but you actually put your hands on it, you built it, you actually get to do it and it sticks, they know. Their retention level is insanely better, they enjoy it, they want to learn, and they want to come back. It just the overall experience is so much better,” said Whaley.

Whaley said she hopes to use new tools to give her students more chances to learn interactively.

Elaina Fields, a third-grade teacher at Claxton Elementary School in Anderson County, was named runner-up in the Extreme Classroom Makeover. She received a check for $5,000 and she also received an additional $2,500 as the winner of the competition’s Viewers’ Choice Award for her video submission.

ORAU has completed the Extreme Classroom Makeover 13 times as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to strengthen STEM education throughout East Tennessee. Since 2009, ORAU has donated more than $434,000 to area schools through the program.