Honoring Outstanding Educators
Technology & Learning's annual Leader of the Year program recognizes four K-12 administrators, teachers, and tech directors whose dedication and vision have profoundly touched the lives and futures of students, colleagues, community, and beyond. To learn more about the Leader of the Year program and how to nominate yourself or a colleague, go to www.techlearning.com in late January 2007.
Cindy Wilson-Hyde's efforts have led to teachers using Webcams to track student reading progress and more.
Curriculum Technology Integrator
Coral Gables, Florida
Every day at 6:30 a.m. Cindy Wilson-Hyde gets in her white Ford Explorer and drives along south Florida's tropical boulevards to Gulliver Schools. She arrives at the main campus, a lush 20-acre spread in Coral Gables, and starts her day quietly reading e-mails.
CINDY WILSON-HYDE'S TOOLBOX
Audacity sound editor
Audio Enhancement classroom amplification systems
Edline Web hosting and portal system
Jackson Software GradeQuick
Logitech notebook webcams
Microsoft Photo Story
Sony Cybershot digital cameras
Yet for the past three years, Wilson-Hyde's influence at Gulliver has been anything but quiet. As the curriculum technology integrator for the independent school's pre-kindergarten through 8th grades, she has — through hard work and a knack for relating to teachers-transformed the school's relationship with technology. "A couple years ago we had teachers who could not turn on a computer," says Patricia Martello, Gulliver's lower school principal — an incongruous scenario for a school that spawned the cofounders of Facebook and the creator of the Firefox Web browser. "Now they're going gangbusters. They're making podcasts; they have Web sites."
Not long ago Wilson-Hyde had a different career altogether — as a dental hygienist. Inspired by her love of technology, and her experience volunteering for Miami-Dade Public Schools during her daughter's formative years, she went back to school five years ago for a master's in instructional technology. After interning at a local high school, she landed the position at Gulliver.
Wilson-Hyde says the dental and education fields aren't as different as one might think. "Being a clinician is all about relationships. You do education every single day, all day," she says. "People trust you if they feel a connection with you, if you listen to them."
This ability to connect has made all the difference, says administrator Glenda Crawford. "It's the way she works with teachers. She supports them. She never says no," she says, citing Wilson-Hyde's one-to-one training model as instrumental in engaging staff with new technologies. The enviable model starts with an online survey asking teachers which two to three skills they want to work on. Wilson-Hyde then customizes training to meet individual needs, and then asks for feedback.
One area where Wilson-Hyde's training has paid off is with Gulliver's 1st grade teachers, who are using laptops and Webcams to record reading samples of their students at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. The videos, along with scanned writing samples, are placed in students' digital arts portfolios. Not only does the portfolio help document reading fluency, teachers are finding them to be a valuable tool at parent meetings. Next year Wilson-Hyde plans to expand the project to kindergarten students.
The benefits of Wilson-Hyde's personal touch can be seen in other areas. Pre-kindergarten teachers are using digital cameras to demonstrate the cocooning process. First-grade teachers who were once technology shy are developing video photo albums and uploading them to the school's online communication system. Third-grade teachers are recording audio writing prompts and posting them on their Web pages.
"I think education is on the cusp of changing dramatically from classroom learning to having the whole world as your classroom," she says. "We're not tied to a time and place any more." — Amy Poftak
Lehman Marks Head of Science
The Winston School
Most adults fear high school drivers. But one science teacher strives to get his students behind the wheel — of cars they designed and built.
Back in the early '90s, Lehman Marks, head of science at the Winston School in Dallas, was searching for a way to get his students to embrace science and technology. He struck upon the idea of getting his kids to design and race solar-powered cars, a dream that has since expanded beyond Winston's 230-plus students to schools across the globe. Now more than 1,000 schools field teams build and race their cars.
LEHMAN MARKS'S TOOLBOX
Lego Robotics Mindstorms
Microsoft (Access, Excel, and PowerPoint)
"I wanted to find some way to give kids a chance to invest themselves in a project," Marks says. "It could show them that engineering and technology are things they could achieve."
A veteran educator who holds degrees in chemistry and zoology (he's currently working on a degree in astronomy), Marks also teaches political science at Richland Community College. He said his desire to show students the wonders of science and technology drove him to teach. At Winston School, which specializes in working with students with dyslexia and ADHD, Marks gets his chance to make a difference.
"You wake up one morning and ask yourself, 'What difference are you making in this world?'" he says. "These kids need someone to inspire them."
That inspiration takes other forms than building solar cars. Marks created the Winston Science program so students could move away from the stodgy science fairs of the past toward something that is more hands on and practical — problem-solving, group-oriented projects (such as measuring the strength of a bridge and charting an egg's fall from a roof). This year nearly 18,000 students descended upon Dallas to take part in the program.
Lehman Marks (left) has inspired his students to build solar-powered cars, build seige engines, and embrace science with passion and vision.
"All of my friends in the public schools are telling me that this is their avenue to get their kids inspired again," he says. "We need to put the fun back in science. There's always a science fair to reach the top 5 percent of kids. But what about the other 95 percent?"
Marks also conducts weekend and summer science academies so that students can get out into the field and obtain real-world experience. Students computerize archaeology digs, develop blue prints, plans, and models of spaceships, even build catapults to test computer models of siege engine trajectories.
Marks teaches science with a passion that leaves his contemporaries in awe. Mark Westlake, a physics teacher at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, brought his solar car team to Texas for the Dell-Winston School Solar Challenge in 2005. There he discovered an educator whose enthusiasm and attention to detail kept students and their teachers motivated, despite triple digit heat.
"He made me believe that we could accomplish a task that on first sight seems overwhelming," says Westlake. "Dr. Marks was always available, always encouraging, and always honest about the pitfalls we would face. He made me and my team want to be part of this event."
Marks admits that he's a driven man, an educator who strives to show that his students can be as successful as any student, anywhere. He recalls a meeting with one parent that affected him deeply.
"I had one parent introduce his son to me as, 'I want you to meet my damaged merchandise,'" Marks says, indignation rising in his voice. "How cruel is that? These kids are special." — Mark Smith
Kent School District
For Don Hall, CIO of the sprawling Kent School District in Washington, empowering students and community through technology is a "front and center" goal. With more than a third of the student population of 27,000 on free or reduced lunches, a significant number of special needs and transient students, and more than 103 languages represented, Hall has his challenges cut out for him.
Don Hall has turned to technology and community partnerships to bridge the gap in his diverse district.
"I am a passionate advocate for students, especially for those who do not have a voice," says the CIO, who, as the oldest of three in a single parent welfare family in rural eastern Kentucky, grew up with first-hand knowledge of what's it's like to be from "the wrong side of the tracks." Knowing that a good education is the ticket to a better life, Hall has been a tireless advocate for bridging the divide in his community.
DON HALL'S TOOLBOX
Blackboard Blackboard IMS
Bytes of Learning Ultrakey
CISCO Network Services
Crick Software Clicker 4
Dragon Naturally Speaking
Freedom Scientific Wynn Wizard
HP desktops, laptops, hardware, servers
Key Curriculum Press Geometer's Sketchpad
Pearson Digital Learning NovaNET
Qwest Telecommunication Services-VOIP
Under his leadership, Kent developed a three-part, high-impact model for integrating technology into education.
Three learning initiatives have played a key role in Kent's approach to preparing students for success. Establishing broad access to technology was a first step. Working with the community, Hall and his team enabled the passage of two technology levies to decrease the student-to-computer ratio to 3.5 or better across all classrooms, with a focus on building skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and digital literacy.
The district has also tapped into the power of partnerships, with local culture centers helping support computer labs and after-school tech tutoring. These agencies have also aided the district in reaching beyond the school walls to install computer labs and after-hours tutoring in high-risk apartment buildings in the district.
The second focus of the learning initiative is to provide students with real-world leadership opportunities. Three student-run projects include the Bridging the Gap computer grant program for at-risk families; the VisFest digital literacy festival; and Tech Exp, a learning and technology fair, as well as technology internships. A district grant program has also provided free computers to more than 3,000 low-income families.
Aligning resources, training, and standards is the second piece of the three-part model. Professional development was restructured from a class-driven to a "just in time" model, encouraging multiple delivery options, student/teacher team learning, action research, and other innovative approaches. Embedding technology competencies within the core curriculum has helped standardization of the staff evaluation process.
Hall recognized that a long-term, scalable, and stable infrastructure was key to the program's sustainability. Under his direction, the district implemented a fiber optic network connecting all 40 schools and centralized its servers. — Susan McLester
Chief Information Officer
Boston Public Schools
Kim Rice's career path to being the top technology officer of an urban school system began in an unlikely place: as a 4th grade teacher in suburbia. In fact, if you visited Rice's office at Boston's Government Center, you'd see a photo of her students from 1993, the year she started teaching.
CIO Kim Rice (bottom left) has revitalizes Boston Public Schools' approach to technology by encouraging communication and collaboration between district leaders.
You'd also see a lot of ducks. When Rice took the CIO helm in July 2005 after serving as a data architect for a statewide portal, BPS's instructional and information technology offices had recently merged into one department. Rice launched a campaign to "get our ducks in a row," buying and distributing 300 rubber ducks to every principal in the district. "It was about OIIT [the Office of Instructional & Informational Technology] changing its mantra to service schools better," says Rice, who still receives numerous duck-related gifts from colleagues.
While the duck campaign may seem like a small thing, it embodies why Rice, who runs marathons in her spare time, has been so successful so quickly. To wit: her laser-like focus on customer service; her ability to inspire different constituencies to come together; and her unswerving eye on teaching and learning.
KIM RICE'S TOOLBOX
Fortres Grand Corp. Clean Slate
NTI Group Connect-ED
Numara Software Track-It!
SunGuard disaster recovery
"She has weathered the transition and created an atmosphere of collaboration between the two units," says superintendent Michael Contompasis, who adds hiring Rice was one of the best decisions he ever made.
When it comes to working with schools, Rice has a simple approach: she listens. She visits a school almost every week, usually on Fridays. She also requires all 86 of her staff members to visit a school and shadow a principal once a year. "So when they sit in an [application] development session and ask 'why can't principals do attendance by 9 a.m.?" they understand," she says. Rice is currently guiding OIIT to identify ways, in the form of key performance indicators and targets, it can improve. Now, for the first time ever, the department is establishing service-level agreements with the district's 145 schools.
Rice was an instrumental player in a recent citywide PeopleSoft upgrade, which brought together C-level leaders from City Hall and BPS into a cross-functional team. Rice also oversees Project Refresh, in which corporations like Blue Cross Blue Shield donate gently used computers. "We looked at this as a crisis," says Rice, who reports that when she came on as CIO, 8,000 of the district's 15,000 computers were over five years old. This year BPS replaced 1,300 computers for $130,000, a fraction of the $1.3 million it would have cost to buy new machines.
Yet for all of Rice's operational chops, her teaching background is never far away. At an October conference celebrating BPS's new three-year strategic technology plan, Rice, who has a MySpace page, led a panel on social networking called "To Block or Not to Block?" She says that she struggles between "wanting to be proactive on the education side" while also ensuring safety.
"She's multilingual when it comes to technology," says BPS deputy CIO Melissa Dodd. "She gets you pumped up." — Amy Poftak
T&L congratulates these outstanding finalists and semifinalists.
Mechelle De Craene
Exceptional Student Education Teacher
James Buchanan Middle School
Special Education Teacher
Fairport Central School District
Fairport, New York
Chief Information Officer
Mason City Schools
Science and Health Teacher
Tuttle Middle School
Brownsville Independent School District
Charles Kenneth Woody
Program Specialist II
Guilford County Schools
Greensboro, North Carolina
Director of Technology
Country Day School of the Sacred Heart
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Warren County Schools
Front Royal, Virginia
Director of Education Technology
Hatboro-Horsham School District
Project Manager: Technology and Instruction
Broward County Public Schools
Supervisor of Technology
Fauquier County Public Schools
Assistant Superintendent for Technology, Testing, and Assessment
Wappingers Central School District
Wappingers Falls, New York
Director of Technology
Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District
Plainview, New York
Judith Showell Loeber
Director of the Centre for Visual and Performing Arts
Indian River School District
Rome Catholic School
Rome, New York
Magnet Grant Technology Teacher
Franklin Park Magnet School
Fort Myers, Florida
Chief Information Officer
Broward County Public Schools,
Education Technology Services
Mark Torrey Stringer
Ash Fork Joint Unified School District No. 31
Ash Fork, Arizona
Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Technology
San Diego County Office of Education
San Diego, California
Wayland Union Schools
Director of Technology