To highlight some of the standout programs and great work that has taken place at Verizon Innovative Learning schools across the country over the course of the 2018-19 school year, we’re excited to announce the initiative’s annual Schools of Excellence Award winners.
“These individuals, schools, and districts have gone above and beyond to make their community’s Verizon Innovative Learning schools experience a powerful one,” said Verizon Innovative Learning schools executive director Lydia Logan. “Each year, there are those people and schools who expand students’ exposure to STEM experiences, are active participants in virtual convenings and monthly calls, share their successful practices and tools with others, apply the lessons learned through peers and professional development to teaching and learning in their classrooms, and find new opportunities to advance and sustain the work.”
Congratulations to the Verizon Innovative Learning schools’ 2018-19 Schools of Excellence Award winners:
District of the Year: Strong Out of the Gate
Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky (Cohort 5)
The five Jefferson County Public Schools participating in the initiative—The Academy @ Shawnee Middle School, Frederick Law Olmsted Academy North, Lassiter Middle School, Newburg Middle School, and W.E.B. DuBois Academy—all started strong out of the gate in their first year as Verizon Innovative Learning schools. Behind strong school-based leadership, the schools built sustainable systems in professional learning and IT logistics and have created innovative ways to leverage their iPads to increase student engagement, communication, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking skills. Strong coaching quickly built capacity among teachers, and by leveraging their devices in various ways, these schools had the highest student achievement growth in the county on their MAP assessment.
Comeback School of the Year
William Hawley Atwell Law Academy, Dallas ISD, Dallas, Texas (Cohort 5)
William Hawley Atwell Law Academy experienced a turnaround midway through the school year thanks to a new coach, Pierre LaFaille, who was assigned to the school in February. “Pierre is action-oriented and believes in building culture and capacity in teachers, parents, and students,” said Vanessa Zurita, the Verizon Innovative Learning schools associate director of professional learning who works with Atwell. “She approaches coaching and leadership with a customer service attitude, finding solutions for meeting the needs of her customers—the Atwell community.” Under the leadership of Pierre and principal Shondula Whitfield, Atwell put new systems in place for the second semester, incorporating Verizon Innovative Learning schools goals into the school’s goals.
STEM Culture of Innovation
Ocala STEAM Academy, Alum Rock Elementary USD, San Jose, California (Chort 4)
Ocala STEAM Academy is a STEM exemplar, both in Alum Rock and in the Verizon Innovative Learning schools initiative. Ocala is committed to leveraging the school’s diverse community for the purpose of helping all students be change agents in their respective communities, and the teachers are dedicated to closing the STEAM gap. Ocala students have participated in several local and regional competitions that require application of higher order thinking, reaching the state championship of the MESA competition in April with their “human-centered” design—an ultrasonic device for visually impaired individuals. With strong teacher and student accountability, problem-based learning and STEAM are embedded into each class.
Rising Star/Trailblazer Award
Natalia Baltazar, Jeremiah Rhodes Middle School, San Antonio ISD, San Antonio, Texas (Cohort 5)
Rhodes Middle School ESL teacher Natalia Baltazar has fully embraced the Verizon Innovative Learning schools initiative and has been an early champion for program implementation at Rhodes. Supporting as many as 15 students of various language proficiencies in each of her classes, Natalia uses resources provided by the initiative to grow her ability to engage and support her ESL classes. She integrates technology on a daily basis to personalize learning for each of her students.
Model for Sustainability
Northside Middle School, Propel Schools, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Cohort 4)
Propel Northside has seen its fair share of ups and downs this school year. After many months of renovations, only to have those renovations destroyed by a broken pipe that flooded the school and caused millions of dollars in damages, Northside has been able to weather the storm and thrive in the Verizon Innovative Learning schools initiative. Despite all the construction, both planned and unplanned, the school has been able to continue the work of innovation in the Propel charter network.
Jonathan Lubas, Entrepreneurship Prep, Breakthrough Schools, Cleveland, Ohio (Chort 5)
Jonathan Lubas has truly gone above and beyond this year in the Verizon Innovative Learning schools initiative, contributing his thoughts and expertise. “He is always happy to give thoughtful feedback, ask insightful questions, and share anything and everything to not only ensure the success of his students but all schools across the initiative,” said Dan Foreman, the associate director of professional learning who works with Breakthrough Schools. “He has thrived in the coaching position and has been able to help lead his schools through this process of change and innovation.”
IT Leader of the Year
Steve Brown, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky (Chort 5)
Steve Brown is the senior micro software analyst in the Computer Education Support Unit in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). Steve also serves as the IT lead supporting the five JCPS Verizon Innovative Learning schools. “Steve has been instrumental in the success of this program in Jefferson County,” said Betty Wottreng, the Verizon Innovative Learning schools technical project director who works with JCPS. “He is a collaborative leader who strives to make things possible for the schools he supports. He not only demonstrates positive leadership with the schools he supports, but he also connects with students.” In the larger Verizon Innovative Learning schools community, Steve has been a guest on IT monthly meetings and offered valuable insight to incoming members of Cohort 6 at the Louisville Leader Summit.
As the school year comes to an end, we want to thank all of the individuals who made the 2018-19 school year a success for our Verizon Innovative Learning schools across the country. We look forward to working with you next year, when we welcome 52 new middle schools from 15 districts to our family.
To learn more about the Verizon Innovative Learning schools initiative, visit verizon.digitalpromise.org.