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Aurora -- In July, Leighton School teacher Dr. Keri Stoyle received a Martha Holden Jennings Foundation Master Teacher Award, which comes with $7,500 to be used to benefit students.
Stoyle said the school will receive 15 to 20 Chromebooks, 12 iPads, a multimedia tool membership for faculty at the school and additional professional development to help implement a blogging initiative with fourth- and fifth-graders.
She said the Chromebooks and iPads should arrive within a month.
The 11-year Leighton teacher said she was "overjoyed" to receive the honor.
"I cried because I feel honored and blessed to teach and learn in such a wonderful community with so many knowledgeable and passionate colleagues," she said.
"I'm thankful to the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and the Aurora schools for believing in and supporting the work we do for our students in hopes of producing risk takers and innovative thinkers."
She was nominated for the award by Aurora Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli.
Leighton Principal Paul Goodwin said Stoyle is "well-respected by her peers. She is a terrific example of what hard work, great skills and compassion for kids leads to in a teaching profession."
In addition to the award money, Stoyle received a plaque and crystal ball at a July gathering at the Cleveland Mariott East.
The plaque reads, in part:
"You are passionate about your subject, and your enthusiasm is contagious. Students are willing to take risks, knowing you value what they think and respect their ideas. You encourage them to think deeply, share their work and communicate their understanding of key concepts."
The new technology will be used to enable students to explain their solutions to different problems or questions across all subjects in a blog setting.
Using KidBlog, students will explain in depth their answers, along with the reasoning and methodology used to get to those answers, explained Stoyle.
"WHAT'S NICE is that for kids this age, writing is the [so important]," she said. "It adds an opportunity to write and closes the gaps with those kids who might yet be strong [writers]."
Part of what closes the gap between gifted young writers and those who find it more challenging, is the ability to incorporate videos and photos, as well writing in blogs.
The goal of the project is to push students beyond the simple responses of a memorized responses to questions and problems, she said.
"It's about the process, not always the result," said Stoyle. "That's what makes us stronger thinkers, that and understanding each others' [thought] process. It's a hard task, but if you start them young, it just becomes part of their culture."
Fourth- and fifth-grade teachers will go through professional development on how to incorporate the KidBlog into their lessons, added Stoyle.
"They're curating or creating their own tasks that will lend themselves to this open discussion model," said Stoyle. "What's nice is that the blogging platform we chose works seamless with Google docs."
On KidBlog, students will have the ability to question one another in comments -- which can be reviewed by teachers before publication -- which Stoyle said will encourage student engagement.
"This takes place above and beyond the classroom," she said. "They're checking their blogs at home."
The ultimate goal, she added, is to prepare students for an unpredictable world beyond school.
"Giving those kids the opportunity to explain, to justify and to critique the thinking of others will make them stronger problem solvers," she said. "We are preparing them for jobs that don't even exist."
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