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The three winners of the eSchool News K-12 Hero Awards showcase the exceptional efforts of educators, schools, and districts across the U.S.

And the winners of the 2023 K-12 Hero Awards are…

The three winners of the eSchool News K-12 Hero Awards showcase the exceptional efforts of educators, schools, and districts across the U.S.

eSchool Media is pleased to announce the three winners of the 2023 eSchool News K-12 Hero Awards, which honors educators for their exemplary use of innovative edtech to support student learning:

  • John Arthur, 6th grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Dr. Jesus Jara, superintendent of Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada
  • Tom Lamont, painting and design technology instructor at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (BVT) in Massachusetts 

Winners were chosen for their commitment to education despite obstacles–including achievement gaps, teacher burnout, and funding–and their creativity and innovation in helping all students continue learning while ensuring students felt safe, empowered, and engaged.

Nominations were judged by a panel of education experts, including Laura Ascione, eSchool News editorial director, and Eileen Belastock, CETL, Belastock Consulting.

Here’s a look at each winner: 

Winner: John Arthur, 6th Grade Teacher, Meadowlark Elementary School
Nominated by: Follett

John Arthur was the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for 2021 National Teacher of the Year. Now in his 10th year of teaching, John’s students have gained national recognition as champions for children and immigrants like them through music videos and other digital content they create and share across platforms as @9thEvermore (on YouTube and Twitter/X). Moreover, he uses Kwame Alexander Bookfest book club from noted author Kwame and Follett to help his students see themselves in story, build literacy skills, and allow students to share their experiences and emotions through books.

He consistently encourages his students to take the lead, coaching them as they craft their content and discover the power of their own voices. The kids do everything from writing scripts to selecting music to editing videos to singing and narrating. Topics range from immigration to kids without fathers.

After college, John discovered his love for working with kids while substitute teaching in elementary classrooms. Inspired by those students, he earned a Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Education from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

A fierce believer that educational equity is not only attainable but a moral imperative, John serves on the Advisory Committee on Equity of Educational Services for Students for the Utah State Board of Education. He, too, is co-director of the Utah Teacher Fellows, a non-partisan nonprofit that engages with state education leaders and policy makers to elevate educators and the teaching profession. Indefatigable and undaunted, he also serves on several WestEd and IncludEd United boards for the purpose of advancing educational equity and inclusion for all students, particularly LGBTQ+ students who don’t feel welcome or a sense of belonging in school.

Winner: Dr. Jesus Jara, Superintendent, Clark County School District
Nominated by: Edmentum

Dr. Jesus Jara is a passionate educator who serves as superintendent of Clark County School District (CCSD), the 5th-largest school district in the nation, educating more than 300,000 students–64 percent of the student population in Nevada.

Since assuming the role of superintendent in 2018, Dr. Jara has been on a mission to move the district from pockets of excellence to an excellent school system where every student can thrive. It was clear to Dr. Jara that, post-pandemic, his students were struggling. Dr. Jara collaborated with Edmentum to introduce a program focused on accelerating learning in core subject areas, specifically to improve math and reading scores. Elementary and high school students from across the district were part of the initial program.

During the 2022-2023 school year, CCSD implemented a research study on Exact Path with more than 20,000 students spanning kindergarten through grade 10 to assess and improve math and reading scores. Students who used Exact Path showed a statistically significant impact on math achievement across all grade levels studied. In kindergarten through grade 2, students who completed at least eight skills exceeded math growth norms by 3 points–a 30 percent improvement over expected growth on NWEA MAP assessments. In grades 3-5, students completing at least 16 skills had the biggest improvement overall, growing 8.7 NWEA MAP points on average. Finally, across ninth and tenth graders, those who completed at least 16 skills increased 5.4 NWEA MAP points on average.

Dr. Jara understands how to support educators in addressing diverse and individual student needs, and provides students the supplemental learning opportunities to get back to grade level. His dedication to professional learning and development for educators has been instrumental in strengthening the district’s teaching workforce. By investing in the right tools and aligning curriculum, assessment, and professional learning, he has created a robust framework for student growth and achievement.

Winner: Tom Lamont, Painting and Design Technology Instructor, Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School
Nominated by: Tech Ed Concepts Inc.

Tom Lamont is the painting and design technology instructor at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (BVT), in Upton, Massachusetts. Mr. Lamont offers his vocational high school students a unique hands-on opportunity to learn about the design industry and to prepare for jobs in the workforce. He integrates today’s high-tech training into a visually engaging curriculum using a variety of techniques and creative tools. Some of the skills Mr. Lamont covers with his students include: the benefits of digital printing, effective design principles, the sign trade including printing banners, car wraps, floor graphics and safety signs, all aspects of project production, lamination and installation for signs, banners, t-shirt transfers, and wall and floor graphics.

The Painting and Design Technology program at BVT uses Roland TrueVIS printer/cutters purchased from Tech Ed Concepts, Inc. (TEC) in Concord, NH. According to Mr. Lamont, “Rolands are the best – you can’t beat the quality,” he said. “The TrueVIS has amazing speed and accuracy, and the print/cut feature streamlines our workflow.” TEC is the Roland DGA Academic Representative in New England and is recognized for superior service, support, and training.

“We have an opportunity to do some amazing things every day at BVT,” said Mr. Lamont. “We’ve had students compete at SkillsUSA Nationals in Louisville, KY win gold. As the Environmental Club Advisor, we collected and recycled 650 pounds of single-use plastic bags, which earned our students an invitation and recognition at the State House. Multiple national trade magazines have published articles highlighting the efforts and technological advancements of our shop. Through our co-op program, we have placed students in full-time jobs within our trade area. Our students serve our District communities through their work on Eagle Scout projects, Gold Awards, sign production for churches and non-profit organizations, as well as continuing to support our veteran groups with painting and sign projects.”

Mr. Lamont’s program has earned him the Massachusetts Vocation Association (MVA) New Teacher Award in 2020 and many other industry recognitions. Mr. Lamont continues to raise awareness to the BVT and local community to what his program can provide and offer, make new connections with area businesses, and foster new excitement in his school for his students and their success.

In the coming weeks, Hero Awards winners and finalists will be highlighted on and on the eSchool News podcast Innovations in Education, hosted by eSchool News Content Director Kevin Hogan.  The winners and all program finalists will also be published in a custom K-12 Hero Awards ebook, which will be available for download later this fall.

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