20 ed-tech leaders to watch

A common goal among honorees is their desire to embrace tools that help them engage each student in the joy of learning; willingness to mentor colleagues; and an understanding that lasting change requires a degree of risk-taking, said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s Director of Education Technology. “Their accomplishments serve as examples that can inform local, district, and state approaches to education technology decisions in the future.”

This is the ninth year of the program, created in 2006. This year’s honorees are being recognized at the 2015 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Conference on March 16 in Atlanta, along with a TLN-hosted luncheon at NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference in Nashville later this month. TechSmith Corporation is sponsoring the celebration events and is providing software scholarships to the honorees.

The 2014-15 NSBA “20 to Watch” honorees are (listed by state/territory):


Mike Guerena, Director Educational Technology, Encinitas Union School District, CA
Mike Guerena, described as “curious and committed” by colleagues, has led the nation in designing a complete suite of personalized learning programs for district students; believes in building the capacity of the educators with whom he works; models that risk-taking is essential for making substantial change; and looks for creative solutions to ensure equity for all students.

Sonya Wrisley, Principal, Design39Campus, Poway Unified School District, CA
Sonya Wrisley is guiding teachers to engage students in the Stanford Design Thinking process where they create solutions to real-world challenges on a daily basis. Teams of 150-180 students work with teachers in shared learning spaces with cutting-edge technologies that shift between traditional classrooms, Makeries, Collaboratories, The Gallery, and The Loft to support a student-centered approach to instruction.


Andy Plemmons, Media Specialist, David C. Barrow Elementary School, Clarke County School District, GA
The collaborative and interdisciplinary approach by Andy Plemmons has revolutionized how the media center is used and offers elementary students experiences like walking field trips with Google Earth, Skype collaborations with writers and artists, and the experience of being beta testers for Wandoo Planet. Plemmons’ style supports teachers and encourages work to flow easily between the media center and classrooms.


Dr. Art Fessler, Superintendent, Community Consolidated School District 59, IL
Because Dr. Art Fessler is committed to providing students with the best possible learning environment, he has undertaken the challenge of rebuilding the entire K-8 curriculum with his district’s instruction department to focus on the development of 21st century skills and the authentic, embedded use of technology. Grade 3-8 students have both a Chromebook and a Nexus 7 tablet, while each student in grades K -2 has a Nexus 7 tablet.”

Dr. John Hutton, Superintendent, Gurnee School District 56, IL
Dr. John Hutton’s vision for student-centered learning and his ability to articulate that vision to the community, in partnership with the district’s school board, garnered passage of a comprehensive building referendum after seven previous failed referenda attempts. The 1:1 learning initiative and the strategic use of data address the digital divide in this diverse community and help prepare all students for life in a global economy.


Pete Just, Chief Technology Officer, Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, IN
As the architect of his district’s Blueprint for Digital Learning, Pete Just makes learning – not technology – the centerpiece of the plan. His support for BYOD and a board-approved Responsible Use Policy that puts the onus for proper use on students with a digital citizenship focus exemplify his local leadership; while nationally, he mentors other CTOs and contributes to various CoSN and industry advisory committees.

Jay Blackman, Director of Educational Technology, Tri-Creek School Corporation, IN
Jay Blackman’s focus to keep instructional programs and practices at the forefront of discussions and the delivery of adequate professional support for teachers, parents, and students contributed to the seamless launch of district’s 1:1 initiative that enables a more collaborative learning environment and further supports the school’s partnership with the New Tech Network.


Amy Braunwart, Technology Teacher, Ryland Heights Elementary School, Kenton County School District, KY
Amy Braunwart exemplifies lifelong learning in a world of ever-evolving tech tools. From developing personal expertise with SMART boards and student produced news shows to helping teachers across the state effectively use digital tools at the Northern Kentucky Writing Project Tech Academy, she inspires colleagues to try new things because of her passionate belief that technology supports improved student learning.


Dr. S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools, MD
Dr. Dallas Dance has made meaningful use of technology a priority in his 110,000 district by engaging the community in the creation of a five-year, Blueprint 2.0 strategic plan; leading the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.) initiative to ensure every school has an equitable, effective digital learning environment; and being an avid personal user of social media to connect with the public.

Sarah Thomas, Teacher/Technology Liaison, John Hanson French Immersion, Prince George’s County Public Schools, MD
Active blogger Sarah Thomas has inspired collaboration without regard to walls or borders as the founder of the first EdCamp in her county and the EduMatch project that connects global educators. Gamification and classroom flipping are just a few of the experiences she shares at http://sarahdateechur.com.

Next page: More top ed tech leaders


Laura Ascione

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