Portrait of a Leader

from Technology & Learning

Editor's note: Cindy Wilson-Hyde was recently named Leader of the Year by Technology & Learning . To read more about the program, visit http://www.techlearning.com/leader.

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.

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 is editorial director of School CIO.