The SMARTer Kids Foundation, created by SMART Technologies Inc. in 1997, is expanding its Teaching Excellence Awards program. The program will now make awards in every state in the U.S. and will develop a program for Canada, where SMART Technologies, the developer of innovative electronic projection equipment and interactive whiteboards, is located (its headquarters is in Calgary).

The company estimates that the retail value of its awards over the next five years will reach $3.2 million. This will be supplemented by $250,000 from the Visual Systems Division of NEC Technologies and $10,000 from AlphaSmart Inc.

The Teaching Excellence Awards program rewards outstanding teachers with innovative classroom technology. In the United States, the awards will be made to teachers who have been selected by state “Teacher of the Year” programs. Each state program that is accepted into the Teaching Excellence Awards program will receive its choice of a SMART Board 540, 560, or 580 and a floor stand to give to its teacher of the year. Training and service will be provided at no charge through SMART’s technical staff and local resellers.

SMART Boards are linked up to classroom computers (Windows-based or Mac) and project the image that’s on the computer onto a large screen. Teachers can then operate their computers—performing activities such as surfing the web or writing notes—by touching the screen. Notes and messages can be saved electronically for later reference.

To date, about 10 states have signed up for the program, said the foundation’s public relations representative, Terri MacEachern. One state, California, will receive five SMART Boards because it makes five teacher-of-the-year awards, but most states will receive a single SMART Board. “If a state requests multiple SMART Boards, we will consider their documentation and needs,” she said.

The Teaching Excellence Awards program dates back to 1998, said foundation Executive Director Nancy Knowlton, when the organizers of the Missouri Teacher of the Year program requested a SMART Board as a contribution for the designee as teacher of the year. The Missouri organizers observed that innovative teachers were able to use SMART Boards to increase class interaction and bring excitement to learning, Knowlton said.

“Our initial reaction to the Missouri program was, ‘What a great idea,'” said MacEachern. “We’ve had a lot of success with that program, and we are excited to be rolling it out across the U.S.”

Officially, applications for the program were due Feb. 1, but Knowlton and MacEachern said the foundation is extending this deadline later into the spring. “Ideally, we want every state to participate, whether they start this year or in the future,” said MacEachern. “We want our technology to be put to use in the classroom.”

In total, the foundation this year will make more than $60 million in grants, donations, and funding to help schools bring technology into the classroom and use it effectively, said Knowlton.


SMARTer Kids Foundation