Leaders of the Year 2005

About the Contest

The Technology & Learning Leader of the Year program recognizes K-12 educators who demonstrate leadership, vision, and creativity in implementing technology in schools and districts. After poring over hundreds of entries, T&L editors and consultants selected four national winners, who received a spot on the magazine's advisory board and, courtesy of Texas Instruments, a Teacher Kit that includes ten Texas Instruments calculators as well as a storage case, classroom poster, transparency, and teachers' guides in English and Spanish. To learn more about the Leader of the Year program and how to nominate yourself or a colleague, visit www.techlearning.com/content/contest/etloy.

Michael Milone works with schools, software publishers, and Fortune 500 companies on technology implementation.

A special thanks to Texas Instruments for donating Teacher Kits to each of this year's winners. For product information, visit education.ti.com.

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Stephen Hefner

Richland School District Two
Columbia, S.C.

Ten years ago, Stephen Hefner had an epiphany. While attending a National School Boards Association Technology + Learning conference, he "realized the world had changed." That insight spurred him to ask the Richland Two school board for $2 million to launch a technological transformation in his district. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyone familiar with the district knows it's a technology legend. There are more than 8,000 Internet-capable computers district-wide. Interactive whiteboards have replaced traditional blackboards. And IT applications range from Web-based instructional software to streaming video-on-demand.

Hefner's mantra is: "If you do not have the ability to deal with technology, or the desire to acquire such skills, Richland Two probably isn't the place for you." To make his vision for technology literacy a reality, Hefner initiated the district's Technology Mentors Program, which ensures that teachers can acquire the skills they need to integrate technology into their classrooms. The Administrative Leadership Academy, another initiative championed by Hefner, is a professional development program that helps district staff move into leadership roles. Technology, of course, is one of its foundations.

One student who recently arrived in the district wrote of Hefner: "As a new student moving in from Northern Virginia, I had very low expectations for South Carolina public schools. However, I was proven wrong. I walked into a district that clearly cares about learning and uses many methods, especially technology, to enhance the educational journey by promoting critical thinking...

Dr. Hefner does not stop at simply providing the technological tools to reinforce learning. He goes a step further to help teachers make magic by supporting an extensive training program to ensure tools can be used to their potential."

The results speak for themselves. The district, whose 21,000-large student body is more than half minority, had the second highest percentage of students in the state taking the SAT this year. What's more, district students scored above the state average on SAT, Advanced Placement, and Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests.


Under Stephen Hefner's leadership, Richland Two has established ITEC (Integrating Technology to Enrich Curriculum) model classrooms. These technology environments feature a one-to-one student-to-computer ratio, flat-panel displays on every student desk, high-speed Internet access, interactive whiteboards, and wireless student response systems. "These core classrooms reinvigorated some of our veteran teachers and promoted novel instructional practices among new teachers," says Hefner. "The result has been improved learning experiences in critical subject areas for our students."


Cisco networking gear (www.cisco.com)

Dell wireless laptops (www.dell.com)

Discovery Education unitedstreaming (www.unitedstreaming.com)

eInstruction Classroom Performance System (www.einstruction.com)

IBM wireless tablet PCs (www.pc.ibm.com/us/thinkpad/xseries/tablet)

Measures of Academic Progress (www.nwea.org)

netTrekker (www.nettrekker.com)

Promethean ACTIVBoards (www.prometheanworld.com)

Scientific Learning FastForward reading software (www.scilearn.com)

SMART Technologies SMARTboards (www.smarttech.com)

Visual Communicator (www.realnetworks.com/products/visualcommunicator)

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Tom McMahon

English Teacher
Cardinal O'Hara High School
Springfield, Pa.

Tom McMahon has the magic touch. With the help of technology, he has managed to do what some consider impossible: get average high school students-the kind who consider the first step in the writing process whining about the assignment-to enjoy writing. McMahon persuades these students not only to write prolifically, but to write well.

For starters, McMahon maintains a robust classroom Web site (www.oenglish.com) that includes homework assignments, research paper help, and reference materials like the MLA and APA writing guidelines. At press time his site had received 40,000 hits this year. In addition, McMahon communicates with his students and their parents on a weekly basis to share class schedules, notes, and test dates. He interacts with students through instant messaging several times a week and hosts an online writers club.

Digital storytelling is one of McMahon's most successful projects. Four times a year, McMahon and the school's technology teacher "exchange" students. The result is a multimedia CD that combines photography, music, and narration. An example is "Claudia," a heartfelt story about a boy's true love. It opens with the song "Lady in Red." A series of rolling photographs is accompanied by narration expressing the emotions of a love-struck teenager. "Claudia" is a tribute to the student's car.

Technology certainly contributes to his students' willingness to write, but McMahon's enthusiasm is equally compelling. McMahon says that graduation is the worst day of the year.

"I hate the thought of my students leaving. Even though I know I'll get another group in the fall, I just feel as if I'm losing something," he says.

Fortunately, McMahon has found a way to keep in touch with some of them. He encourages graduates to e-mail their college papers to him for proofreading and discussion. "It's a great way for us to stay in touch and for me to learn how my students are doing," he says. "Seeing what my former students are expected to do and how well they adapt to the task helps me plan how and what I teach my current students."

The students in Tom McMahon's class recognize what he has done for them. He received an "orange smiley face with sunglasses," the highest rating, on ratemyteacher.com. That's as good as it gets.


Why did the superintendent of schools in Louisiana send a letter of thanks to an English teacher in Pennsylvania? After hurricane Katrina, Tom McMahon realized that many students in affected states were not going to be able to prepare for college entrance exams in the way they normally would. He put his face-to-face SAT prep course online and made it available to students in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi (www.oenglish.com/SAT Prep.htm).

Tom McMahon's Toolbox

Canon ZR65 (www.canon.com)

Dell Inspiron 8200 (www.dell.com)

Inspiration 7.5 (www.inspiration.com)

Macromedia Studio MX (www.macromedia.com)

NetOp School (www.crossteccorp.com/netopschool)

SMART Technologies (www.smarttech.com)

Windows Movie Maker (www.microsoft.com)

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Katie Morrow

Fifth Grade Teacher
O'Neill Public School
O'Neill, Neb.

As one of Katie Morrow's former students said, "Man, is that lady excited about teaching!"

Katie Morrow employs technology in her classroom in the same way that an orchestra conductor employs instruments. At the center of instruction is an interactive whiteboard, which Morrow uses to introduce her students to the big ideas that underlie the curriculum. Once students have been exposed to the content, they practice and apply what they've learned using handheld computers, movie production software, and other multimedia tools.

That's not to say that Morrow's classroom is all tech all the time. If you go to her Web site (www.esu8.org/~oneill/km/classroom.htm), you'll discover that the theme for this year's fifth grade is medieval times. The armor and equipment her students are expected to use are, in addition to technology, traditional tools familiar to those of us nondigital natives: Number 2 pencils (lots), correcting pens, loose-leaf binders and paper, glue sticks, scissors, crayons, and the most useful of all supplies, a box of tissues.

To understand why Morrow's students accomplish so much, one needs only to look at her fifth grade Web page introduction. In it, she says: "You are being challenged to a year-long quest of learning. New challenges may include switching classes, band or Soundsational Singers, producing Eagle Eye News, Palm handhelds and other technology tools, and many other noble adventures. But along with the exciting comes added responsibilities — more homework, more independent work, and higher expectations of behavior and working with others."

Morrow's accomplishments — and those of her students — have not gone unnoticed. This year she was recognized as the Nebraska Educational Technology Association technology teacher of the year, and was selected to participate in the SMARTer Kids Foundation Connections project. The true measure of her excellence, however, is the variety of Digies (Apple), Sketchies (Palm), and other awards her students have won.


Once a month Katie Morrow's fifth graders produce Eagle Eye News, a news show that's broadcast around the school and on local cable television. The Eagle Eye team includes all the jobs you would expect of a professional newscast, including an audio engineer, a graphic designer, an anchor person, reporters, a camera crew, a managing editor, and a technical director. An "interest inventory" on Morrow's Web site helps students decide which roles they are best suited for.


Adobe PhotoShop Elements (www.adobe.com)

Apple's iLife Suite: iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, and Garage Band (www.apple.com)

Palm Tungsten E2 handhelds (www.palm.com)

SMART Board interactive white board and software (www.smarttech.com)

Sony Digital Mavica CD cameras (www.sony.com)

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Linda Hardin

Curriculum Director
Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District
Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan, Alaska, is a beautiful place, but in the rural southeastern part of a state that boasts less than a million residents, it is quite isolated. Technology, therefore, plays a crucial role in helping young people in Ketchikan maintain contact with the outside world and learn the skills they need to be successful.

When Linda Hardin arrived in the district nine years ago, technology was sparse. She set to work building Ketchikan's technology program from the ground up and was involved in every facet of the process, from drafting a strategic plan to writing grants to unpacking the computer boxes when they arrived. She also had the foresight to place technical support in every school so that teachers could devote more time to instruction. Because technology literacy in the district wasn't strong, Hardin faced the dual tasks of familiarizing teachers with technology and teaching them to integrate it into their classrooms. She coordinated comprehensive staff development opportunities and acquired the resources she needed to implement the training. For example, she arranged for some of the country's leading technology speakers to come to the district, and she has made it possible for teachers to obtain continuing education credits for staff development. "We partner with the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus so that our staff development activities can be certified. This allows our teachers to maintain their credentials without excessive travel." Getting around is no small issue for teachers in a district whose students often have to travel by plane for sports and other extracurricular activities.

The technologies Hardin has acquired reflect the unusual characteristics of the district. In addition to traditional applications in reading, mathematics, and science, technology is used in vocational programs for marine navigation and oceanography, two skills that are of critical importance in Hardin's part of the world. All of the schools are wired, and every teacher has access to the Internet from the classroom.

Technology in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District also plays an important role in early language development, particularly for Ketchikan's Native Alaskan students. Says Hardin, "Even though almost all of our indigenous children speak English as their first language, we found that technology-based language development activities, when combined with interaction among their peers and with teachers, increase the likelihood that that they will learn to read, write, speak, and listen on a par with other young children."


One of Linda Hardin's favorite technology projects is the weekly e-mail newsletter that Mark O'Brien, a fifth-grade teacher, sends out to all the parents of his students. The e-mail contains critical information for the parents as well as photos, chatty news, and instructional content, like the week's spelling words. Hardin and O'Brien estimate that every parent reads the newsletter because they have Internet access through home, work, the local libraries, or community centers. If you think this is an exaggeration, consider this: it is not unusual to have 100 percent attendance at parent-teacher conferences.


Apple PowerSchool (www.apple.com)

Ingenuity Works All the Right Type (www.ingenuityworks.com)

Inspiration (www.inspiration.com)

Kidspiration (www.inspiration.com)

Renaissance Learning Accelerated Reader and Math; STAR Reading/Math/Early Literacy (www.renlearn.com)

Scholastic Read 180 (www.scholastic.com)

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Technology & Learning congratulates the following outstanding six finalists.

Maria Fico
Regional Instructional Technology Specialist
New York Department of Education-
Region One
Bronx, N.Y.

Doug Martin
Graphic Arts Teacher
Mingo County School District
Delbarton, W.Va.

Rae Niles
Curriculum and Technology Director
Sedgwick Public Schools
Sedgwick, Kans.

Dave Ramage
Coordinator of Technology Staff Development
Souderton Area School District
Souderton, Pa.

John Richardson
Technology Infrastructure Coordinator
St. Joseph's Academy
Baton Rouge, La.

Karen Vitek
Technology Integration Teacher
Nassau-Spackenkill School
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.


The following 20 semifinalists are also commended for their achievements.

Ruth Baize
Teacher and Tech Coordinator
Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation
Evansville, Ind.

Marty Brandl
Teacher/Technology Committee Chairperson
Marshall-Holy Redeemer School
Marshall, Minn.

Lou Brewer
Media Specialist/TRC Classroom Facilitator
Nickerson-South Hutchinson School District
Nickerson, Kans.

Amie Brown
Coosa Middle School
Rome, Ga.

Jon Cohen
Assistant Principal
Mount Laurel Hartford School
Mount Laurel, N.J.

April DeGennaro
Enrichment Teacher
Cleveland Elementary School
Fayetteville, Ga.

Larry Ferlazzo
Luther Burbank High School
Sacramento, Calif.

Lawrence Frates
Integrated Arts Teacher
Laconia School District-Supervisory Unit 30
Laconia, N.H.

Irene Hills
Warner Elementary School
Wilmington, Del.

Jennifer Jones
First Grade Teacher/Technology Integration Specialist
Newark City Schools
Newark, Ohio

Pam Lowe
eMINTS Teacher
Poplar Bluff R-1 School District
Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Julie Masterson-Smith
Library Media Specialist
Honeoye Falls-Lima County School District
Honeoye Falls, N.Y.

Jennifer Meschi
Technology Integration Specialist
Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School
Rocky Point, N.Y.

James Ray
Spartanburg School District 3
Spartanburg, S.C.

Keith Shaffer
Director of Technology
Skokie School District 69
Skokie, Ill.

Kelly Smith
Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services
Northside Independent School District
San Antonio, Texas

Bob Sprankle
Wells Elementary School
Wells, Maine

Pat Stewart
Technology Director
Warren County Public Schools
Bowling Green, Ky.

Jan Strohl
Language Arts Teacher
Carmel Clay Schools
Carmel, Ind.

Micha Villarreal
Director of Instructional Technology
Ysleta Independent School District
El Paso, Texas

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