Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Proudly Announcing SDW Staff Member and Apple Distinguished Educator Kathy Miller

We have a big announcement to share with the SDW Staff and the community of Waukesha.

 Kathy Miller, an instructor at the Waukesha Transition Academy, has been selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator for the Class of 2015.

The Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program is a highly selective program that honors educators who have made meaningful use of technology, coupled with high quality instructional practices, in their classrooms to transform their students' educational experiences.

We asked Kathy to guest blog this week and share a bit more about herself, about being selected for this honor, and about what she is doing in her classroom with technology.

This video from Kathy Miller is a reflection on her work with students and how she builds community and student voice in her classroom.

Becoming an ADE: Blog Post by Kathy Miller
I am a transition teacher with SAIL Services at the Waukesha Transition Academy (WTA) and a newly chosen Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2015.  If you have not heard about the Waukesha Transition Academy, perhaps you have heard of SAIL Services.  We were at Waukesha North HS and just celebrated our second year on Whiterock Avenue.  

Waukesha Transition Academy became the name of building where SAIL Services is located.  We have a dynamic team including young adults, teachers, assistants, specialists, learning coaches and administrators.  To tell the story of how I came to apply for the Apple Distinguished Educator program, I have to go back a few years.

This honor is the result of participating in as much of the rich and relevant professional development SDW offers as I could.  We are fortunate to have such dynamic teachers willing to share their time and talents.  I share my class resources with the young adults and we could not have come this far without those teachers.  

Opportunities such as participating in the initial iPad rollout, began the application to my learning environment in earnest.  The question I posed to the young adults was - “You have these devices in your hands and others are waiting for their turn.  What do you want to be - a leader or top score in a game?”  I had a multitude of questions and false starts with management but with the support given, moving forward was possible.  It took a few months for the day to day realities of having their devices became more of  a non-issue, and then they flew.

My application (for ADE) included written information and a video clip.  Describing the transformation of my learning environment started with talking to some of our veteran participants; “How has your learning changed?”  They were not shy talking about fear of failure, being laughed at or being the only one not to understand.  From there I was able to do something I love to do: tell people about the hard work, along with spectacular works, young adults have accomplished. 

Young adults that struggle in just keeping their hands steady are now being able to search, find and open apps to taking notes in a college class (and earning 6 credits by the end of this year). Learning has been transformed.  

While the technology is not the focus, the device has mattered.  Laptops do not and would not afford young adults the independence that our touch screens do.  I was able to list many examples of how the device has impacted the learner allowing them to be independent in their learning.  Seeing the list of student successes I had generated (for the ADE application) was astounding.  This was by no means an all inclusive list, but did just fit in the character limit of the section.  Looking at the young adults progress and their hard work listed was impressive.

The video attachment (to my ADE application) became a living example to young adults the behaviors I ask of them.  Through a series mistakes I still cannot figure out, the wrong video was attached to the application.  Now the video had the script and movie of young adults behind it, but not the final product I had intended.  My message was still clear - everyone deserves to share their voice, and be as independent as possible.

There is a commitment to being an active member of the ADE community and sharing experiences.  On July 9-14, I will attend the ADE Institute.  Until we can register, we do not know the scope of our adventure, but in looking at past ADE Institutes I am awestruck.  The part that impressed the young adults the most was the format is very similar to Apple events; we have watched a few.  I cannot wait to learn new tools, ideas and collaborate with people from the Americas group (Canada, Latin America & United States).  I have promised to FaceTime young adults when I can or at least make a podcast or two.  They know I will because they are part of this adventure too.  The feeling of excitement, overwhelmedness, gratitude, and panic come and go at this point.  In the ADE portal we are told often that it is a life changing event. I cannot wait!