WonderLab is excited to welcome the newest member of the WonderLab Board of Directors, Heather Niehoff. Heather is a high school math teacher at Edgewood High School in Ellettsville where she has been teaching for the past nine years. Heather joined the Board in August 2023.
Mother of four children, ages 9 – 23 years, and grandmother to a 3-year-old, Heather has been a frequent visitor to WonderLab since its inception.
“My youngest son loves the water table,” said Heather. “At first he was just throwing the balls around. Then he learned that the balls go in one place and come out somewhere else. Now we cannot get him away from the table.”
Part of Heather’s educational philosophy and teaching style is that kids learn more when an activity is hands-on and connects to something personal.
“I take a very abstract concept and I find a way to connect it to something outside the classroom,” said Heather. “That’s what I’d like to bring to WonderLab for math.”
Similar to the exhibits and programs at WonderLab, Heather teaches with a project-based, hands-on learning style that she has found to be very effective.
“I’ve seen some amazing things happen when kids connect through hands-on learning,” Heather said.
Heather frequently uses her school’s Innovative Learning Center to set up project based math challenges. Last year, during a unit on graphs, she placed one student in a room with a model of a cardboard roller coaster. This student needed to share directions for building the same roller coaster with students in a separate room.
“The student who was directing could not see the students who were building,” said Heather. “And the students who were building had no visual of the roller coaster they were attempting to recreate. They could only communicate with math. They did it. They successfully built a replica using only math!”
Heather’s methods were celebrated in 2022, when she was named the Ellettsville Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year.
“It’s exciting to have another teacher on the board of directors,” said Karen Jepson-Innes, WonderLab Executive Director. “Now we have representatives from each of our major local school districts.”
Jepson-Innes hopes Heather’s voice as an in-service educator will strengthen WonderLab’s plans to expand school outreach through the newly received grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.
“We want to develop new activities and better ways to meet students in school communities,” said Jepson-Innes. “Heather as well as other board member educators can provide guidance for how we can be most impactful.”
Before teaching, Heather worked as a paralegal, where she met her husband, Ben Niehoff. She made her career shift into teaching math by starting out at Ivy Tech’s academic support center, then subbing, before transitioning into public school. She holds a BS in Secondary Education from Indiana State University, a Master of Arts for Teachers in Mathematics from Indiana University, a Gifted and Talented Certificate from Ball State University, and STEM Certification through the University of Indianapolis. Heather holds a three-year term on the WonderLab Board of Directors.