2016 Distinguished Secondary Teacher Awards

On Thursday, June 16, five high school teachers from around the country were recognized during the sixth annual Distinguished Secondary Teacher Awards ceremony. The award, which recognizes outstanding high school teachers who’ve had a transformative impact on their students, is an opportunity for the Northwestern community to celebrate teachers who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to teaching and learning.

This list of 2016 DSTA winners is available on the Office of the President website.

The teachers were asked about their views on the intersections between technology, pedagogy and student learning. The teachers generally regarded technology as an asset to their teaching, but found different ways in which it brought value to their classes.

Northwestern University Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award (DSTA)

Both Barbara Kane, a math teacher at Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois, and Daniel Conti, an English teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, Massachusetts, commented on the ways technology improves aspects of community and collaboration in the learning process. Kane said that her students “have the opportunity to reach beyond the four walls of the classroom to learn key concepts and explore new ideas. Students are now more empowered to be active in how, and what, they learn.” Conti agrees that technology has empowered his students and has made teaching more of a collaborative process. “The students and I are much more partners in the learning process. When it comes to expertise and the learning process, the line between teacher and student has been blurred. And, to me, that's a good thing.”

Jose Romo, a Spanish languages and literatures teacher from Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, sees technology as a great asset, but also an opportunity for him to continue learning. “I consider myself flexible and willing to learn in order to change the 'traditional' classroom experience as long as it benefits my students.” Ben Hartnell, who teaches history and social studies in Westerville North High School in Westerville, Ohio, agrees that students keep pushing him to understand and learning the technology. But he also sees a need to contextualize the technology, and at times curtail it.  “I think technology can be a great tool in the classroom, but much in the way that students help show us old-timers how to use the latest technology, once we grasp the concept of the newest approach to staying connected, why can't we - in turn - help lead them in making some of the "big picture" connections? And sometimes the best way to teach students can happen when we close the screen on the laptop... and just talk.”

Technology itself is a lynchpin for the entire DSTA process. When bringing together busy students and administrators on campus with high school teachers across the country, it is imperative that the technology that supports their efforts be easy to use and available to them anywhere at any time.

The interviews are conducted using the Blue Jeans videoconferencing service and recorded for those who cannot attend the live sessions. The videos are then uploaded to the Mediasite video platform and embedded on a custom website built by members of Northwestern IT Services and Support's Media and Design team which makes the viewing of videos and inclusion of any thoughts or notes relevant to the 20-person committee an easy process.

Although technology is vital to facilitate the DSTA ceremony, it is the human connection that makes it all so memorable. President Schapiro, in his remarks at the DSTA breakfast, said that the breakfast has become “one of my favorite events as part of graduation.” Seeing the look on the faces of the winners and their families, it’s easy to see why.

If you are a senior graduating in June of 2017 and wish to nominate a high school teacher, please use the teacher nomination form. If you have any questions about the Northwestern University Distinguished Secondary Teacher award, please e-mail DSTAwards@northwestern.edu.