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20 ed-tech leaders to watch

Desire to deliver more personalized learning drives exploration of innovative technology solutions

leaders-watchThe National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Technology Leadership Network (TLN) recently announced its “20 to Watch” honorees for 2014-15.

These education leaders from across the country are being recognized for their ability to inspire colleagues to explore and embrace innovative technology solutions that contribute to high-quality instruction and support more personalized learning experiences for students.

“This year’s ‘20 to Watch’ honorees highlight the kind of exciting innovations that exist throughout America’s public schools. These teachers and administrators, with support from their school boards, share a vision for learning that will prepare students for future success,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “These inspirational pioneers are having a positive impact on the districts they serve.”

Next page: Learn about these innovative ed-tech leaders

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

Next page: More top ed tech leaders



Bernie Osebold, Director of Technology & Assistant Principal, New Haven Community Schools, MI
Bernie Osebold leads by example, showing colleagues how technology can save time, increase productivity, and enhance both teaching and student achievement. He championed the district’s 1:1 pilot program; took on the task of professional development for new teachers; and launched a Student Technology Internship Program that assists with equipment maintenance and repairs while providing students with credit toward graduation.


Dave Eisenmann, Instructional Technology and Media Services Director, Minnetonka Public Schools, MN
Dave Eisenmann, considered a “teacher’s teacher,” leads Minnetonka’s award-winning four-year 1:1 iPad initiative. His clear vision for technology’s role in accelerating student learning allows him to create stakeholder buy-in and build teacher leaders. Eisenmann speaks frequently on the importance of digital citizenship and his leadership has provided essential technology support to grow the district’s Chinese and Spanish immersion programs.

New Jersey:

Tina Marchiano, English Teacher, Pascack Valley High School, Pascack Valley Regional High School District, NJ
Tina Marchiano has experienced 1:1 learning in this district, first as a student and now as an educator who uses Twitter and other social media platforms to engage students inside and outside the classroom. She also helped colleagues create virtual “snow day” assignments during the winter of 2013-14 that caught the attention of national media.

New York:

Tracy Rudzitis, Teacher, M.S. 245 – The Computer School, New York City Public Schools, NY
As one of Stanford University’s FabLearn Fellows, Tracy Rudzitis has transformed her middle school computer lab into an oasis where students make, create, tinker, and engineer during lunch and school so learning can be more hands-on, complex, creative, and meaningful. As a leader in the global maker movement, she is working with the NYC Public Schools to create computer programming, engineering, and making curricula for children.

John Calvert, Computer Teacher, Quaker Ridge Elementary School, Scarsdale Public Schools, NY
Nurturing critical and creative thinking among students and colleagues is at the heart of John Calvert’s work. He transformed a large classroom into a makerspace; created an impressive Virtual Class Trip project to help students understand the differences between communities; and is shaping how regional educators think about how technology supports learning in his role as moderator of the NYC Google Group.


Megan Kinsey, Principal, Ridge Middle School, Mentor Public Schools, OH
Catalyst, a state-of-art observational classroom that Megan Kinsey helped co-found, contributes to her commitment as a lifelong learner because it allows her to engage in action research around new technologies and instructional strategies that can assist her in finding the best way to support the educators and learners in her building.


Aaron Marvel, Instructional Coach, Navasota Intermediate School, Navasota Independent School District, TX
Aaron Marvel applies knowledge from his doctoral work in child psychology to help teachers identify the right technology to meet the district’s diverse student population. As the instructional coach, he helped the school secure a Swivl robot with a motion sensor camera that allows teachers to record and evaluate themselves to improve instruction and monitor progress towards goals.

Donna Staten, Elementary Art Teacher, Round Rock Independent School District, TX
Donna Staten is the “Pinterest Queen” in school art circles because she generously shares resources through more than 450 boards that include videos, teaching techniques, and subject matter content. Her inspiring collection of ideas improves learning for both the Title 1 and special needs students with whom she works, and, it offers a steady stream of new ideas for her 95,000 followers.


Randy Brown, Third Grade Teacher, Fryelands Elementary School, Monroe Public Schools, WA
Inspired by Khan Academy, Randy Brown embarked on his own blended learning journey to create a digital version of himself with over 500 instructional videos that allow him to provide individualized attention to every child as student groups rotate through stations in his classroom. He shares his expertise with this powerful instructional model with colleagues across the state.

Mark Ray, Director, Instructional Technology & Library Services, Vancouver Public Schools, WA
Librarian, provocateur, and blog author Mark Ray recognized the natural intersection between libraries and technology and advocated for the inclusion of strong digital citizenship efforts into his district’s strategic plan. The district began its digital transition in 2012 to provide personal devices to all students in grades three through 12 by 2018.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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