Leaders of theYear 2007

12/15/2007 5:00:00 AM

from Technology & Learning

For the 20th year, T&L is proud to honor outstanding educators.

In the following pages we bring you profiles of innovation, of courage, of determination, and most important, of dedication to the future of students. You will read about: a superintendent who turned around a "failing community" through the use of technology; an e-learning specialist who restructured an entire state's approach professional development; a technology director who, against great odds, developed a digital academy for at-risk students; and a graphic arts teacher who single-handedly trained small-town students to compete and win on a global with 21st-century technologies.

As always, it is difficult to choose just four winners the numerous high-quality entries we received. And year we are beginning something new: a Leader of the profile series that will run each month in T&L and will showcase the accomplishments of the many educators have profoundly touched the lives of students, colleagues, the community, and beyond. Stay tuned for that series, in the meantime, on to this year's winners.

Top Winner
One-to-One the Thin-Client Way
Larry Buchanan

Larry Buchanan
Superintendent for Special Projects
Grant Joint Union High School District
Sacramento, CA

District Snapshot:
GJUHSD serves 13,000 7th–12th graders from families speaking 35 distinct languages. One-third of students are English Language Learners, over 90 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch and the community is a high-poverty and a high-crime area. With over 84 square miles, it is also one of the fastest-growing districts in the nation.

In the Grant Joint Union High School District in Sacramento, the accomplishments of Superintendent Larry Buchanan have transformed the lives of students and the community in a profound way. With language challenges, poverty and crime, the district was, in a colleague's words, "a failing enterprise," and on the short end of the digital divide. Then Buchanan arrived, rolled up his sleeves, and set to work. With innovation and a goal to find a learning model that would be successful with traditionally disenfranchised youth, Buchanan looked to technology as a large part of the solution.

To fulfill his vision, the superintendent's first step was securing $40 million in E-rate funds. Next, he created the centerpiece of his districtwide technology model via thin-client technology. Buchanan's rationale was affordability, simplified IT management, and support and the flexibility needed for true personalization. With the Martin Luther King, Jr. Technology Academy as the pioneering venue, Buchanan has set up regular streaming of supplementary exercises, curriculum content, and student assessments from the district IT department's central servers. Students work from customized desk configurations, or Web-served thin-client devices. Currently, 1,024 thin clients have been made available for the 532 students at the academy.

According to Buchanan, the effort is designed to "deliver instruction conceptually appropriate for digital native students, while allowing teachers greater flexibility to teach what they need to for the 21st-century." Freeing teachers from management and clerical tasks has resulted in a more effective and productive use of everyone's time.

For Buchanan, education does not end in the classroom, but reaches out to embrace the community. Most families in the Grant district lacked computers and Internet access at come, but Buchanan is changing that. He is expanding the model by delivering instruction to students and their families 24 hours a day via educational television programming.

Data analysis remains another key component to Buchanan's program. The district has instituted student personal response devices, which allow for automated realtime feedback to be collected and correlated during instruction. Results show that learners are exhibiting "heightened motivation and classroom attention, greater personal expectations, and more frequent and higher quality output and performance." The district has also integrated a range of software applications to facilitate instruction and organization (see Toolbox).

Dr. Larry Buchanan has lifted not only the student population but also an entire community from darkness into the light of the global digital century.

Learn More: www.grant.k12.ca.us

Last Byte:
"Freed from their personal limitations, students are able to contribute to a society, to become part of its workforce, and to influence its political and economic future."

Integrating Cutting-Edge Technology

Cathleen Richardson
eLearning Specialist, Team Lead
Atlanta Public Schools

District Snapshot:
Atlanta Public Schools is an urban school district in Atlanta, GA, serving 43,956 predominantly minority students in 107 schools.

"I was a Learning Technology Specialist for four years and eager to integrate more cutting-edge technology into our district," begins Cathleen Richardson in her LOY application. And she certainly didn't waste time. Step one was convincing district administrators that a new eLearning division would open up a world of global connections and resources for students as well as new communities of practice for educators. With a strategic plan and the enthusiasm to match, Richardson tackled this challenge by attending monthly principals meetings, demonstrating what's possible with technology.

Her first initiative was the development of "hybrid" courses that were part of learning pilot at the district's Carver High School of Technology. Richardson began this by instituting aggressive teacher professional development around use of the Blackboard online course delivery system. This model of traditional classroom instruction combined with "anywhere, anytime" virtual learning proved such a success, plans are now in the works to expand the model districtwide.

Richardson's second initiative was to introduce podcasting technology, now widely used by teachers, students, and administrators. Richardson also conducted a Media Day, inviting press, the board of education, vendors, and others to see model podcast lessons. The result, she says, was a districtwide "podcast craze."

Initiative three was the building of the Georgia Performance Standards program, which created technology-infused, standards-aligned curriculum modules beginning with middle school mathematics. Modules, which are rigorous and accessible to educators everywhere via the district's portal, include streaming videos, WebQuests, unit lessons, standardized test correlations, scope and sequence data, assessments, and much more.

Richardson's fourth initiative integrated the newly revised ISTE National Educational Technology Standards and the updated framework from the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills into resources that she has made readily available to educators.

Central to the success of all of the above initiatives are Richardson's eMentoring and eAmbassadors programs, which offer extensive training in 21st-century technology skills, standards, and tools to a cadre of middle school teachers and students who can then train others and become exemplars for education in the digital century. "We are transforming administrators, teachers, and most importantly, students, into global learners and shaping our district into a 21stcentury powerhouse," says Richardson.

Richardson's rigorously designed educator portal has had ripple effects far beyond her district. Educators state-wide are using the site as a key resource and as a model for building their own high-tech programs and portals.

Learn More: www.atlanta.k12.ga.us

Last Byte:
"This recognition is not just for me, but for all those who struggle and face challenges in breaking down the barriers for our students."

School to Career with Digital Arts

Ellen Towers
Academy of Information Technology at Hoover High School
San Diego, CA

District Snapshot:
In the heart of the largest immigrant neighborhood in the city of San Diego, Hoover serves about 2,200 students who speak more than 30 languages, with 66 percent from non-English–speaking homes. Suspension and expulsion rates are above average, and poverty is a significant factor, with 100 percent of students qualifying for free breakfast and lunch.

With the large population of at-risk students front and center in her mind, Ellen Towers set about designing and developing the Academy of Information Technology at Hoover High. In 2003, while she continued to teach, Towers opened a small learning community with 60 students, five teachers, and two computer labs. Four years later, the academy boasts 300 students, 11 full-time teachers, and eight computer labs.More important than these physical signs of progress, however, is the cultivation of a powerful and cohesive personalized learning community at Hoover High School, where students are eager to join the academy largely because of what colleagues term "an inspiring recruitment process" created by Towers.

Once accepted into the academy students take courses in Web design, business and computer applications, tech support services, multimedia, and graphic design. Students receiving an A or B in these courses are awarded college credit through San Diego City College. Towers has been innovative in integrating core curriculum into these technology courses, as well, with world history, English, biology, and other areas incorporated with digital skills.

Strong partnerships have been a hallmark of Towers's success. Local businesses and education institutions are part of an active advisory board that meets monthly. Through these partnerships, businesses play a valuable role in helping students gain work experience through mentoring activities and internships. They also advise teachers on the skills necessary for today's workforce. Additionally, Towers organizes monthly luncheons between advisory board members and AOIT students, with a total of 45 students meeting advisory board members for lunch last year alone.

Towers's spearheading of field trips out into the community changes student lives as they return with heightened curiosity and motivation, and an increased ability to practice behaviors necessary for positive personal interactions and productive teamwork. Other efforts she's taken on include fundraising events, grant writing, team building activities, and establishing a positive working environment for all.

Towers's students have received local and national recognition for their efforts, winning out over 60 competing entries in a multimedia filmmaking project sponsored by the Los Angeles–based City Project. In addition, the countrywide iVIE Awards recognized two AOIT films this year, including one that explores the lives of Latina workers.

Ellen Towers's innovative solutions and her refusal to be limited by traditional challenges means her students have a fighting chance for success in the digital century.

Learn More: http://hoover.sandi.net

Last Byte:
Says a former student in a letter to Ellen Towers, "It would be a lifetime before I could finish thanking you."

Visual Arts Open the World to Students

Doug Martin
Graphic Arts Teacher
Mingo Career & Technical Center Delbarton, WV

District Snapshot:
The Mingo County School District is in a small, rural coal-mining town, where even mining jobs are increasingly scarce, and most students do not attend college. The student population is 230.

After quitting his job with Disney, Doug Martin returned to his hometown, a small, rural coalmining town, to teach graphic arts at the Mingo Career & Technical Center. An economically depressed area, Delbarton doesn't see a lot of college graduates, especially among the kids in the vocational education tracks. In his application, Martin said, "Our classrooms can sometimes be the single hope our students can rely on for their future." And he has taken that mandate seriously.

"I believe there is a need for teachers who do more than march students through textbooks. I am a firm believer in the nontraditional 21st-century classroom, a classroom full of creative opportunities that will keep the interest of today's child with today's technologies."

Also convinced that technology and creativity go hand in hand, Martin says he "entertains students into learning" by incorporating such visuals as Internet examples, television clips, and commercials. Most of his assignments come from listening to his pupils and discovering the latest "hot topics." The results have changed the lives of his students.

Using cutting-edge graphics such as the Adobe suite of products and technologies such as Kodak digital cameras and Wacom tablets, Martin has turned his students into world-class artists, winning over 40 design and art contests this past year alone. Honors they've rounded up include the National Congressional Art Award, a national Scholastic art award, and an EA Kids Sports Web design award. Martin has also focused on instilling in students a sense of self-confidence and a knowledge that they have the ability to compete and win on a global scale.

Martin has opened up the world to his kids. When they won the Congressional Art Award, the class traveled to Washington, DC, to meet Congressman Nick Rahall and to attend an awards ceremony. Martin's class was also invited by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to go to the capitol. When there, the students presented the governor with a digital photomosaic portrait they had created of him. Students also gained worldwide recognition through a multimedia tribute (available on CD and viewable on the Web) to the miners who lost their lives in the Sago Mine tragedy of 2006—a tragedy that hit very close to home for this community.

Last year 18 of Martin's students won college scholarships, amounting to almost half a million dollars. Says a former student in a letter of recommendation, "Without Mr. Martin, I'd probably be going to work in a coal mine."

Learn More: http://mingotech.com

Last Byte:
"Because the generation of students that I am teaching is an instant pudding, drive-through, microwave, download-it-from-the-Internet, media-driven generation, I know that I must be innovative to keep their interest and to inspire in them a creative curiosity."

Larry Buchanan's Toolbox

A sampling of the Grant school district's numerous hardware and software partners.

Apangea Learning




Follet Software Company

Generation Yes



Knowledge Adventure



NDSi (iSIMS software)





Renzulli Learning Systems




World Book


Cathleen Richardson's Toolbox

Apple computers, software (iLife, iWork, iTunes)

Audacity sound editor


Ezedia QT

HP 3600N Color Laser Printer


JVC Everio Digital Camcorder

Lacie 160 GB Portable Hard Drive

Logitech Presenter Mouse

Micromemo Audio Recorder

Microsoft Office Suite

Sony Cybershot Digital Camera

Ellen Towers's Toolbox

A sampling of the AOIT's hardware and software partners.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

eInstruction technology software

HP printers, scanners

Macromedia MX

Microsoft XP

PC desktops

Doug Martin's Toolbox

Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive)

Apple computers


Epson printers

HP computers, printers

InFocus projectors

Kodak digital cameras

Macromedia (Flash, Dreamweaver)

Microsoft (Word, PowerPoint)

SMART Technologies

Wacom Tablets


Technology & Learning also salutes the following exemplary educators.

Kay Ball
Technology Facilitator,
Yancey Public Schools
Burnsville, NC

Edward Foote
Special Education Teacher,
Fairport Central School District
Fairport, NY

Susan Bishop
Technology Specialist,
Tremont District 702
Tremont, IL

Anita Givens
Senior Director, Instructional
Materials and Educational Technology
Texas Education Agency
Austin, TX

Cory Boggs
Curriculum Integration Specialist,
Putnam City Schools
Oklahoma City, OK

Kate Hayes
Counseling Educator,
School of the Future
Philadelphia School District
Philadelphia, PA

Carol Broos
Music Teacher,
Sunset Ridge School #29
Northfield, IL

Joretta Kilcourse
Elementary Technology Leader,
Danbury Public Schools
Danbury, CT

John Carol
Teacher, F.J. Reitz High School
Evansville-Vanderburgh County
School Corporation
Evansville, IN

Wileredo Laboy
Lawrence Public Schools
Lawrence, MA

Carole Colburn
Technology Literacy Teacher,
Howell Public Schools
Howell, MI

John Long
Technology Program Specialist,
School District of Palm Beach County
West Palm Beach, FL

Laura Corraro
Technology Specialist,
Carteret County School District
Newport, NC

Debby Martin
Business Education Teacher,
Hampton City Schools
Hampton, VA

Vickie Maggard Elswick
Boyd County Public Schools
Ashland, KY

Thomas Nedreberg
Technology Director,
Tintic School District,
Eureka, UT

Steve Feld
Technology Specialist,
District #11
The Forward School
Bronx, NY

Ellen Phillips
Computer Teacher/ Education
Technology Specialist
PS 233,
The Langston Hughes School
Brooklyn, NY

Carol Fleck
Teacher/Science Department Chair
Riverside High School
Painesville, OH

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