RED DEER -- Two Red Deer public school teachers are recipients of the prime minister’s awards for teaching excellence in STEM subjects.

Grade 5 teachers Colin Christensen and Krista McLean both teach at Don Campbell Elementary.

The national award recognizes their focus on innovation, creativity, and critical thinking in science, technology, engineering and math.

“We are a little but surprised, but we are very grateful for the recognition,” McLean told CTV News.

Don Campbell students have been introduced to geometry, coding, and robotics by the pair. For example, one class created a maze, then had to write code that guided a robot to through the maze.

“We try things that we normally do in the classroom and (put) a STEM spin on things,” said McLean.

“The future is ever changing, and if we can introduce them to things like coding and robotics now, that just opens up a lot of doors for them.”

With travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic, both McLean and Christensen have taken advantage of the school’s virtual reality goggles by taking students on virtual field trips to different historical sites in Canada.

 “The big one for us was being able to go on field trips outside the classroom. Taking them to places and giving them that experience,” said Christensen.

Additionally, they have introduced a program focused on improving the mental health of students. The HeartMath program involves students wearing ear clips that monitor their heart rhythms and display that data on their Chromebooks, so they can regulate their emotions and return to a good state of mind for learning.

 “I think we are representative of teachers all across our district and province that are doing really great things and bringing innovation into the classrooms,” said McLean.