Written by: Hannah Schobel
Date: May 1, 2018
For the first time, WOSU Public Media recognized the most outstanding school district and teacher in central Ohio through the Excellence in Education Awards. In this inaugural year, honorees were those who demonstrated excellence and innovation implementing technology in the classroom. Heather Griffith, a fourth-grade teacher at Westerville, and Pickerington Local School District, accepted their awards for Outstanding Teacher and Distinguished District, respectively, at WOSU Classroom’s Innovation Mixer in April.
“It’s an honor to be recognized,” Griffith says, about what the award means to her, appreciating the respect she receives from her colleagues. “It’s hard to try new things in the classroom and go out on a limb… it shows how hard work will pay off eventually.”
Brian Seymour, the Director of Instructional Technology at Pickerington believes the award validates the district’s mission.
“It shows it’s not just one individual or a small group that’s doing this, it’s the entire district, all 670 teachers piling together for the students,” Seymour says.
Amy Palermo, Chief Content Director of Educational Technology, launched these awards to provide educators with the appreciation they deserve.
“In the world of technology, it’s always changing. We don’t stop and recognize the successes because we’re so often onto the next thing. We need to celebrate the student and teacher growth,” she says.
“We need to tell their story and share it with other educators because they’re the greatest resource,” Palermo added.
Griffith, for example, uses technologies Google Classroom, Googlecast for Education and alternative seating, which encourages students to share ideas and collaborate.
“If you’ve got a wide range of abilities in the classroom, it’s easier to use tech to allow kids to showcase what they can do and share that with other people,” Griffith says.
Pickerington Local School District implemented a district-wide technology plan, including 160 pages detailing the vision, goals, definitions, roadmaps and benchmarks of blended learning. It has been used as a national and state exemplar for the Future Ready initiative.
“We spent a whole year developing, what do we want technology to look like in the future?” Seymour says, adding they revisit the plan every semester and advises other districts not to rush into it. “You have to have a concrete plan. You have to have people champion your work.”
Seymour adds it is important to provide a support system for teachers – especially for those who did not grow up with technology and constantly push for new innovations; Pickerington stopped purchasing textbooks and invested those funds into digital content. The district also used virtual reality goggles for virtual field trips and augmented reality for classes like Earth Science.
“We have to get our kids to create more, rather than just be consumers.”
Drew Farrell, the Education Technology Coach at Westerville, nominated Griffith for the award, describing her as a ‘master teacher.’
“She has a great blend of science and technology,” Farrell says. Her methods motivate kids, because they are “truly interested in what they’re learning, and at the same time it’s high quality.”
Griffith believes it is essential to talk to other teachers from different grade levels, learn from them, and provide teachers time to network.
“Educating our kids is a super important job,” Griffith says. “I think we need to have innovative teachers to continue to inspire our kids and encourage them to try new things.”