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Tech & Learning Names the Winners of the Innovative Leader Awards in Atlanta

innovative leader awards
(Image credit: Future)

At the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit in Georgia (opens in new tab), our editorial team named the winners of the new Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Awards (opens in new tab). This honor recognizes exceptional administrators in select regions around the country who are leading innovation in their school districts. We’re seeking district leaders who not only drove innovation during the pandemic, but plan to take these lessons learned to reimagine and reinvent education moving forward. 

Please help us congratulate the winners – and consider nominating yourself or a colleague for other upcoming Regional Summits here (opens in new tab). Tech & Learning will cover travel for all awards finalists.  

Best Example of Teacher & Student Well-Being Programs 

Dr. Claudia Martinez, ESOL Teacher, North Tattnall Middle School, Reidsville, Georgia

Martinez, a multilingual teacher at North Tattnall Middle School, has been diligent and highly focused in fostering student voice, equity, and representation. For example, Martinez worked with her students to publish a class book, Untold Immigrant Stories: Multilingual Student Experience in the United States. She also helped to launch a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration that involved the community as well as the students, and has developed community support for student experiences such as STEM lab visits at Georgia Southern University.

Martinez is the recipient of the 2020 GATESOL Teacher of the Year. She believes in the importance of critical and culturally relevant and anti-oppressive practices, and has planned and led many district lessons, programs, and celebrations that teach and celebrate diversity.

Best Implementation of Digital Curriculum 

Sam Brooks, Supervisor of Personalized Learning, Putnam County School System, Cookeville, Tennessee 

As Supervisor of Personalized Learning in the Putnam County School System, Brooks leads VITAL, the district’s virtual learning program. During his decade-long tenure, he has overseen a tremendous expansion of both online and dual enrollment offerings. A significant part of the growth was the development of an online personal finance class in partnership with the Lampo Group and Florida Virtual School, which was piloted by VITAL.

Brooks also has been recognized for his efforts to create more personalized learning environments for students. In addition, his team hosts the largest Google conference in Tennessee each year, which is free to the nearly 800 educators who attend. 

Best Overall Implementation of Technology 

Cristin Kennedy, Director, Instructional Technology, Cobb County Schools, Georgia

During the pandemic, Kennedy led her team in developing and implementing a personalized LMS for a district of more than 100,000 students that met the needs of students, parents, and teachers with features to address instruction, planning, assessment, and communication. The team also supported the rapid transition to remote learning with extensive professional development and training for new technology tools 

This year, Kennedy has cultivated a culture of IT service, continuing to bring new technology into classrooms across the district and offering training for teachers and students, including after traditional school hours. 

Most Innovative Learning Spaces 

Kristy L Beam, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, City Schools of Decatur, Georgia

As Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Beam led City Schools of Decatur to rethink “learning spaces” with the adoption of a virtual learning program for the 6,000-student district in the 2020-21 academic year. To make certain this virtual learning environment had the same rigor as in-person classes, she ensured all staff received high-quality training, created effective policies to govern operations in the new virtual learning program, and embedded a social-emotional learning regimen into the program to make sure all students in the virtual learning program received the holistic support they required.

During her 24 years in education, Beam has taught grades 3-12, been an administrator in public and private schools, and prepared teachers in the university setting. She also helps educators examine data to create and implement strategic plans to achieve their goals.

Ray Bendici is the Managing Editor of Tech & Learning and Tech & Learning University. He is an award-winning journalist/editor, with more than 20 years of experience, including a specific focus on education.