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Classroom Innovation and Creativity: Sarah Butler

SarahReviewer: Sarah Butler

Position Held:  First Grade Teacher

Sarah Butler's Teacher Website 

District/School: Hempfield Area School District, West Point Elementary School, Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Number of Students in District/School: Hempfield Area School District serves 6,100 students in grades K-12 in 11 schools, which include 6 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 1 high school and 1 alternative education school

Products: Mimio Classroom Family of Products, including Mimio Teach, Mimio View, Mimio Capture, Mimio Pad, and Mimio Vote


Last year, Hempfield Area School District invested in the Mimio Classroom Family of Products with the Mimioteachintention of offering teachers innovative ways to expand current curriculum and keep captivating our students in a digital world. The goal was to bring technology into every elementary classroom with interactive ways to view, assess, and complete daily lessons traditionally done via pencil/paper application. Hempfield Area was driven to pursue this new technology with the implementation of new Language Arts and Mathematics curricula. Both programs offered a wide range of interactive resources that teachers could utilize more seamlessly with the latest in educational technology tools, like Mimio.


Across the district, the response to this technology has been more positive than anyone could have imagined or hoped for. With anything new and different, the adjustment has been challenging, but rewarding.  As a classroom teacher, I have made it my personal mission to embrace this new technology in my classroom for the benefit of my students. Despite the challenges of learning all new technology (as well as simultaneously implementing new curriculum!), I have found a new passion for what I do- molding young minds with amazing technology to assist! The students have been the true indicators of success.  Mimio has completely changed the “magic” of learning for my students.  Any Mimio lesson I present, any Mimio Vote assessment I complete, and anything I present through my Mimio View instantly draws their attention. I have seen increased classroom participation and on-task time consistently.  I have also seen exponential growth when comparing student understanding based on “old” teaching practices (i.e. lecture, pencil/paper drill and practice), compared to interactive, hands-on, often student-led Mimio lessons.  Perhaps, most helpful to me, Mimio acts as a teacher assistant, of sorts, to allow me more freedom to oversee my students’ progress.

Learning Curve: 

MimiovoteThe possibilities are endless with Mimio technology, and truly can seem overwhelming.  District implementation has centered on hours of Staff Development, and even more hours spent out of school, on my own time, honing my skills.  From a hardware aspect, Mimio is very simple to operate.  Inherent in the design is the ability for all the Mimio equipment to work with minimal techno-savvy abilities.  To put it as simply as the equipment is to operate, essentially you plug things in and it just works!!  A major highlight is the technology is as simple or sophisticated as you want it to be when it comes to creating.  Lessons can be designed for simplicity, or created utilizing the extensive bells and whistles the technology does offer (but, again, does not require). Mimio, and its parent company Dymo, offer their own support systems and online resources.  These supports are truly phenomenal.  For those that aren’t ready to create, there is also a Mimio Connect website that offers a forum for teacher sharing of lessons. This component has allowed for me to use my prep and planning time most efficiently.  Mimio Connect offers a forum to find pre-made, adaptable templates, games, lessons, and even allows for peer feedback on lessons I create and share. Between the resources offered by Mimio, and the in-district teamwork atmosphere, it has been a challenging, yet very rewarding journey that continues to lead Hempfield Area into a realm of limitless educational excellence.

How We Use It: 

Hempfield Area School District has embraced the role of technology in the classroom and taken the Mimioviewapproach to utilize our Mimio resources to enhance what we already do every day- strive to offer all our students the best educational experiences possible. Mimio is a classroom tool we use to supplement our current curriculum.  Mimio lessons are designed to target the hands-on approach already engrained in our daily learning goals. Using the Mimio Classroom Family of Products, every elementary classroom is equipped with a Mimio Teach, which makes any whiteboard interactive when used in conjunction with a projector, computer, and Mimio software.  Every elementary classroom also utilizes the Mimio View, which is a document camera.  The Mimio Pad allows the teacher to move freely around the room and operate the whiteboard from remote locations without wires.  The Mimio Capture is an ink recording system that works with standard dry erase markers.  It allows for notes to be saved, in many formats, for later editing, printing or other use.  The Mimio Vote (my personal favorite.) allows for instant assessment/feedback.  You can also gather scores and download results into spreadsheets by assigning the handheld devices individually for testing.  The game-like handset maximizes participation, and are you ready for this, put excitement into assessment for children.

What’s Ahead:  

MimiopadI educate children that are more technologically savvy at age 6, than I will ever be in my lifetime. But, I am committed to being a life-long learner and doing my best to make my classroom as relevant and educationally rich as possible. My teaching now embraces, and is part of, the visually stimulating world my students are growing up in. I have the ability to offer my students hands on, motivating lessons that engage their brains in ways most interesting to them. Often, the lessons I create offer components for all learning styles and modalities. It’s definitely provided an avenue to balance the best of technology with the best of traditional education strategies.  Anyone that has spent time in a classroom can tell you, it’s not an easy job.  But, when you love what you do, it makes it easy to find the highlights and triumphs as the glowing parts that outweigh the challenges. There is no greater reward than seeing that proverbial “light bulb” come on for a student.  I see success daily, exponentially, in fact, when including Mimio technology as part of my standard teaching repertoire.  With all of these “light bulbs”, the future is truly bright for my first graders.

Online Professional Development: Assist. Supt. Julie Rolling

Ascd2 Reviewer:
Julie Rolling

Position: Assistant Superintendent, Learning Teaching and Family Support

District: Puget Sound ESD, WA (PSESD)

Number of Students in District: 383,000

Products: ASCD PD Online


I wanted to offer a variety of K-12 professional development to meet educators' range of needs. Given Seattle's traffic issues and educator's busy schedules, driving to a region workshop is not feasible for most. So, having the opportunity to access online, high quality, professional development on their own time and in the location of their choosing was critical.


Each year the number of classes taken has increased significantly and the response has been very positive - the content is very high quality, relevant to their teaching setting and convenient way of learning new information to better serve students. Educators appreciate hearing from experts, and applying what they’ve learned to their own setting, as well as being able to work at their own pace.

Learning Curve:

The online sessions are very easy to use.  PSESD simply surveys educators to gather needs and offers technical assistance as needed. We rarely hear of problems with the use of the product. We offer continuing education and graduate credits from local universities to make the learning connect to recertification goals.

How We Use It:

Online classes supplement the in-district professional development that educators already receive. These classes often fill a need for individual teachers that is different than the needs of their entire staff. For instance, many new teachers find the sessions on classroom management helpful, and others offer another learning opportunity for a topic that has great depth, like differentiated instruction. Experts, like Bob Marzano, have come in to work, and then we utilize the online classes prior to or after the face-to-face sessions to help educators deepen and apply learning.

What's Ahead?:

We will survey educators in the region and offer classes that meet their needs. We will also continue to offer existing classes that are popular, as well as new sessions based on the changing needs of the region. Furthermore, we would also like to connect with individual districts to see if we could partner to offer sessions based on their improvement goals.

Freshman Online Portfolios: Tasha Candela

Tasha2 Reviewer: Tasha Candela

Position: Business Teacher

District/School: Lake Shore High School, Lake Shore Public Schools, Michigan

Number of Students in District/School: 3,400/1,200

Products: Microsoft Movie Maker, Microsoft PhotoStory 3, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Power Point, Weebly


On the hunt for a job, students are facing stiff competition. While employers are judging applicants on a number of things, a portfolio of work samples, a resume, and awards is essential. My goal is to transform the traditional paper portfolios into electronic portfolios online.


This lesson is one of the most successful lessons in my career since I began teaching in 2006. The students truly understood the magnitude of this project and used every lesson presented to showcase their aptitudes and abilities. This project was used more than just a one-time grade. Students marketed themselves using documents within their electronic portfolios. 

Some students shared that they landed a job with the help of their portfolio; in fact I have seen an increase in student employment due to these portfolios.

Parents have asked their children to help them complete a portfolio, too, and fellow teachers have asked for tutorials on how-to create Weebly websites for their own classrooms. (I have held these sessions during our Professional Learning Community time.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve was adjusted as I discussed short-term and long-term goals with the students. We developed a timeline to keep students organized, on-track, and ready for accomplishment.

The portfolio is just a tool. Students feel motivated, even as freshmen, to make real world connections. They compile work samples that they are proud of.  Heartfelt discussions and examples of these products helped my students realize the importance of their work and its end results.

How We Use It:

I introduced the website creator Weebly to students and explained the requirements and necessary components of the electronic portfolio. Students took multiple pretests to help discover their values, interests, and personality traits to match them with specific careers.  They then researched the career field and submitted a written paper and gave a presentation. 

Students were given the opportunity to produce a Microsoft PhotoStory 3 presentation instead of the traditional formats. We scanned awards, certificates, pictures, and career documents to post on their Weebly websites. At the end of the lesson, we created Educational Development Plans for students to reference as they continue through their next three years of high school, and towards graduation.

What’s Ahead?:

My long-term goal for the project is to have our educational leaders see the validity of portfolio-based assessments instead of bubble sheets. I believe the authenticity of this project will create a buzz not only for employment purposes, but as a data collection for all others to measure learning. I would love to create a tracking system to find out just how many students landed jobs with the help of their portfolios.

PC 1:1: Dave Ehlers Director of Tech

LIFEBOOK T730a Dave Ehlers2 Reviewer: Dave Ehlers

Position: Director of Technology

District/School: Weston County School District #1, Newcastle, Wyoming

Number of Students in District/School: 790

Products: Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC, SMART Boards, Cisco Access Points/Controller, and Microsoft Windows Virtual Server Solutions


We are moving into our 4th year with our 1:1 initiative in our grades 9-12. During an extensive process of LIFEBOOK T730b comparing several types of laptops/tablets/slates for our students, it was determined that the Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC was the best fit for our needs.


We included staff members, administration, students, parents and board members as part of the tech-choice process. We felt that even though the Slate/Ipad technology has some advantages (costs, ease of use, lower profile) it also has, in our opinion, significant disadvantages. It was pointed out that most of the features on the Slate/Ipad are applications that a consumer would use. We felt it important that we strive to mold solid student producers of materials/programs/and even Apps that others can use. Overall the product we chose received solid reviews from all our testers/evaluators. The LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC featured solid construction, high display resolution, hard drive disk suspension, and optical drive flexibility for additional battery.

Learning Curve:

Since this is our second generation of tablets in our school district the Learning Curve is mush less than our initial deployment. Professional Development was offered and supplied by Fujitsu at no additional cost to our district. A 3-year accidental protection plan was purchased with the units, and qualified Fujitsu-trained technicians handle all support in-house. Fujitsu has offered to train additional technicians as needed.

How We Use It:

The Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T730 tablet is just a part of our overall technology deployment, for our students’ educational experience. Other devices include SMART Boards in every classroom, Cisco wireless access points with controller, and a Windows Virtual Server Solution that ensures a solid infrastructure. We pride ourselves on providing our students and staff with a consistent and reliable technology presence in each classroom. With full-time Help Desk technicians, classroom integrationist, and a focus on strong implementation we’ve created an environment for success in Weston County.

What's Ahead?:

Deployment has begun. Our staff received their LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC prior to leaving for the summer months to become comfortable with the new unit, and students will receive theirs in the fall. There will be Staff Professional Development follow-ups this fall as part of our district's Welcome Back to School Professional Development Days. The development topics will include hardware and software updates, classroom management software, as well as Internet and Network Securities.

MyLearningPlan: Director of PD Andrew Szczepaniak

MLP OASYS Gilbert Rubric Report_v3
Andrew Szczepaniak Reviewer:
Andrew Szczepaniak

Position: Director of Professional Development

District: Gilbert Public Schools, AZ

Number of Students in District: 38,785 

Products: MyLearningPlan (Professional Development Management System)

OASYS (Observation and Appraisal Management System)



We were looking for an online system that would enable us to manage professional development for all staff to empower our employees to move their professional practice forward through effective job-specific learning experiences. We were hoping to find a web-based PD management system that was user-friendly to not only eliminate paper associated with tracking salary movement, certification hours, and compliance requirements, but to align our strategic goals to PD and to encourage our staff to think deeply about why they are engaged in professional learning. We chose MyLearningPlan, and it has fulfilled all of these goals and much more.


It was important to us to involve all employees, including support staff, in our roll-out of MyLearningPlan, and our formative efforts to gain the commitment of all stakeholders really paid off.  Across the system, personnel appreciate the visual layout of the system, and they value the easy end user access to viewing, sorting, and printing  records of their professional development endeavors, including all internal and external learning opportunities. I’ve heard many comments that adopting MyLearningPlan is one of the best decisions the district has made.

MyLearningPlan reports allow me and other district leaders to see the big picture, while our building administrators have the data they need to facilitate relevant instructional leadership conversations with their teams. Through evaluations and surveys, instructors have ready feedback to help them tailor their facilitation to meet participants’ needs, and teachers have a way to demonstrate how their learning is changing their practice and influencing student achievement.

Learning Curve:

When we first deployed MyLearningPlan, my team conducted training sessions and provided support to all buildings.  The system is very intuitive, so after people got over the hurdle of switching from paper to a web-based approach, we were off and running.  The ease of use and customer support provided by MyLearningPlan has been phenomenal from the beginning. 

How We Use It:

We list all of the district, school, and team-based PD offerings in the online catalog where employees view and enroll in activities. The system workflow routes the forms to the appropriate people for approval, financial tracking, and certification management. The calendar feature helps avoid no-shows, and each activity is aligned to one or more district goals to ensure coherence and focus.  We utilize the Team Rooms to engage groups in online discussion and collaboration about what they are learning, and we use specific MLP forms to gather impact data, in order to gauge the effectiveness of what we’re providing.

What’s Ahead?:

We have been expanding our use of the Application/Impact forms, which allow us to collect data about how teachers are applying what they are learning through PD into their classrooms, and to record evidence of changes in student outcomes. It’s become more and more important for us to show how our expenditures are impacting student learning, and MyLearningPlan allows us to do easily do that.

This year, we adopted OASYS, the new Observation & Appraisal Management System, which is fully integrated with MyLearningPlan. Administrators have been able to complete classroom walk-throughs, formal observations, and the final teacher evaluation summary smoothly and efficiently.  The incorporation of the professional development portfolio through MyLearningPlan allows administrators and teachers to have conversations about the correlation between professional learning and evaluation.  

In addition to overseeing MyLearningPlan, as the District Administrator of OASYS, I have found it easy to manage the necessary forms, rubrics and processes. Certified personnel have commented on the ease of acknowledging and viewing their completed evaluations. The ability to see their electronic evaluation portfolio, integrated with their complete professional development portfolio, has been fully embraced as we transitioned into this online environment to manage educator evaluation. 



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.