CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has selected the winners for the 2020 K-12 Digital Learning Innovations Awards. These awards were created to honor leaders and educators to create cultures of innovation and forward-thinking through effective uses of digital, 21st century technologies to engage students while empowering them in owning their learning.
The Digital Learning Innovations Award is an acknowledgement of educators utilizing new and innovative ways to incorporate digital learning into their work. There are four categories to the award: Student Voices, Education Leader, District Leader, and State Leader.
“Now more than any other time in education, digital innovation is essential. These leaders undoubtedly pushed themselves as well as their students to bring excellence to digital education,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “I know firsthand that these awardees make a difference in students’ lives and will continue to push through difficult challenges to ensure high quality digital education is accessible to more students.”
Student Voices – Erika Quick and the Cody Broadcast Journalism Students
The Broadcast Journalism program at Cody High School has been student-led for 20 years. The students are the voice of the school, and they inform their student body on what is going on. Their stories often transcend past the student-body and into our community. As their advisor, Quick pushes them to ask the tough questions. She always warns the students that some stories may lead them into the unknown. It may challenge them to arrive in a place they did not expect. That is what journalism is, the pursuit of what’s true, even if it makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t fit within the walls of your normalcy. Through COVID-19, the students captured their experiences through a series of photos to try and convey how the pandemic has impacted them.
Education Leader – Krista Sweckard, Johnson #1
Sweckard is a prime example of an innovative teacher in all she does in her classes from the elementary school to the high school. She is always striving and searching for effective approaches to help her students learn through engaging lessons and units. Sweckard has a unique position in her district. She teaches computer science and technology classes at the high school half time and spends the afternoon at an elementary school teaching classes with elementary teachers using lessons she develops to assist teachers to integrate technology in their lessons. In the elementary school, she learns about the units or lessons they are teaching and then develops lessons she models and teaches with the classroom teacher to the students. In her high school classes she integrates hands-on activities and designs her lessons beyond the format of most classes. Sweckard is the most dedicated and innovative teacher committed to changing the classroom to prepare and empower her students and colleagues for the future.
District Leader – Dr. Joe Heywood, WYVA
Heywood is the Head of School and K-8 Principal of the Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) for the past three years. During this time, he recognized the need to improve the Social-Emotional component for students online and how valuable it is for student’s to feel connected, especially in a virtual setting. To do this he has created a library of virtual field trips for students and has instituted the first online Junior National Honors Society and Student Council for grades 7-8. He created a series of virtual field trips that can be accessed by students online to bring different parts of Wyoming to them, at home. He has also used videos to create welcome messages to help build a sense of connection. There is usually an educational component as well to these videos and are geared for all students K-12.
State Leader 1 – SSG David Pulsipher, Wyoming Army National Guard
Pulsipher faced COVID-19 head-on by helping to teach several classes for Wyoming High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) Program through Western Wyoming Community College by assisting students that had endured an unprecedented end to their in person classes. Pulsipher Instructed classes via Zoom on Career Development and Life Skills courses. The classes reached students in Rock Springs, Big Piney, Bridger Valley, Pinedale, Kemmerer, Green River, and Star Valley. Education is one of the most revered freedoms of every society. Pulsipher’s ability to overcome and adapt in such a short period as well as assist with one of the most critical aspects of the American way of life is a testament to his professionalism and commitment to the betterment of human potential.
State Leader 2 – SFC Jeffrey Blascyk, Wyoming Army National Guard
Blascyk took digital learning to a new level by creating a resiliency video series for the Sheridan SCOPE program. In Tongue River, he conducted a virtual workout series with an accountability piece to encourage students to work out and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Blascyk also conducted a goal setting video series for multiple English classes in Sheridan High School, in conjunction with their reading of the Alchemist to promote realistic goal setting. He did two videos, one on military equipment and the uniform for those who took the ASVAB. Blascyk also had a bunch of education centered videos posted on Facebook for the students in the areas of physical fitness, how to apply social distancing, additional military equipment videos and benefits videos.
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Linda Finnerty, Communications Director