Joann Blumenfeld has B.A. and M.S. degrees in science and engineering. She taught STEM classes for 20 years for Wake County Public Schools, where she was a science and special education teacher in elementary, middle, and high school, and worked with mostly low-income Black and Indigenous students with disabilities. Blumenfeld is also the Founder and Program Director of Catalyst: Creating Opportunities in STEM for Students with Disabilities, which she started five years ago. Located at The Science House at North Carolina State University, Catalyst is a free high school program designed to create STEM opportunities for students with disabilities. Students learn STEM content and skills through hands-on labs and research, participate in STEM field trips, have mentoring and paid STEM internship opportunities, improve their workforce readiness and soft skills, and explore STEM educational pathways and careers. Catalyst also provides students with job exploration counseling, workplace readiness training, work-based learning experiences, counseling on postsecondary options, and development in self-advocacy. The program serves students from 35 high schools in North Carolina and has won three national awards in just five years. In 2017, Catalyst participants won the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam competition for their invention: a low-cost mat that screens for lameness in cows with an app that notifies farmers. They presented at MIT, were invited to the USPTO, and received a Letter of Commendation from President Obama in 2018. Catalyst was a 2021 recipient of the Program of Excellence Award from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association and the National Energy Education Development Project Special Project Award. Most importantly, all graduating Catalyst seniors have pursued STEM educational pathways in college. Received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant for Connecting.
Blumenfeld is also the Program Director of GIST: Connecting Students with Autism to Geographic Information Systems and Technology, which serves high school students with autism. It offers an introduction to drone piloting, virtual reality computer simulation training, mentoring, and job application support for participants. This research program is funded by the National Science Foundation and began in January 2022.
Blumenfeld is the recipient of over 10 teaching awards, including The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator Award; the North Carolina Excellence in Teaching Award, Council for Exceptional Children; the North Carolina Educator of Excellence Award, Wake County Public Schools and Department of Public Instruction; and the Special Education and Distinguished Teaching Award, Bridging the Gap. She has presented at over 20 international, national, and state conferences, including the National Science Teacher Conference and the SciAccess Conference. She has received many fellowships, holding the titles of Kenan Fellow, North Carolina Science Leadership Fellow, National Endowment for Humanities Scholar, World View Global Music Fellow, NASA Education Ambassador, National Science Teacher Association Beginning Teacher, and Dow Fellow. Blumenfeld has served on educational advisory councils and is also active in many STEM organizations. She is passionate about STEM; helping all learners be successful; and building a more diverse, inclusive, and innovative STEM workforce.