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Cable's Leaders in Learning Awards 2008

The 2008 Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards winners include educators who are sharing effective teaching methods worldwide via blogs and streaming videos, connecting students to their communities while raising money for orphans in South Africa, producing a student-led documentary on the fabled Bronx borough of New York City, or providing parents a way to connect with their children’s teachers through ATM-like kiosks in grocery stores among other innovative approaches.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Senator Bill Finch, Connecticut General Assembly, Policymaker Excellence Award

Interview with Bill Finch. [MP3, 12.2 MB]

Connecticut State Senator Bill Finch has helped students get excited about civic involvement through his "Who Wants to Change the World?" contest for high-schoolers. Each October, Finch visits participating high school classrooms to talk with students about state government and invite them to enter the contest. Interested students write a 1,000-word essay about a state law they believe should be changed or about a new law they believe should be implemented. Teachers, along with Finch, form a committee to select the best essay advocating the best idea. Finch writes and submits a piece of legislation that takes the student's idea and transforms it into legislative action. Writers of the winning essays (and some of their classmates) come to the Capitol in Hartford, and with the Senator at their side, present their proposed bill and testify before the appropriate committee. The students' parents, teachers, and local elected officials are invited to accompany them, have lunch with Finch, and sit in on the committee hearing. In addition to experiencing the legislative process first-hand and having the opportunity to have their ideas heard and enacted into law, the winning students receive a cash award of $500. Now in its fifth year, the contest has received more than 200 student essays and under Finch's leadership, has expanded, with four state senators and one representative initiating the contest in their districts. Over the years, legislative suggestions have covered a range of issues and ideas, such as teaching veteran's history on Veteran's Day in public schools, banning the use of cell phones while driving, providing paid leave for advanced firefighting training, and mandating a drug and alcohol course for teens prior to issuance of a driver's license. One proposal that was ultimately enacted into law was to designate September 11th as "Remembrance Day" in Connecticut.


Representative Jane Cunningham, Missouri House of Representatives, Policymaker Excellence Award

Interview with Jane Cunningham. [MP3, 6.2 MB]

As a State Representative for six years and Chairwoman of the Missouri House Education Committee, Representative Jane Cunningham has shown tireless dedication to ensuring that students in Missouri receive a quality education. She worked closely with other state lawmakers and the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association to propose and pass legislation that supports the creation of virtual schools and other online learning opportunities for students. Two years ago, Cunningham began working with Missouri school districts that were having difficulties attracting and retaining teachers for certain subject areas. Some districts, in rural areas, did not have enough students to warrant the hiring of a teacher so they were providing "synchronous distance classes" over the Internet. Cunningham soon realized the broad range of opportunities made possible by using high speed Internet as an educational delivery system and began working towards effectively implementing virtual schools in Missouri. Cunningham believes that as an alternative to traditional schooling, virtual schools have several advantages for students who do not fit the mainstream, such as children whose families travel, or students who are homebound because of an illness or disability. Teachers who would like to teach from home also benefit. In addition, she has been a dedicated proponent of virtual schools as a solution for states that have to deliver educational services with little or no interruption during emergency situations, such as Hurricane Katrina. A former school board member, Cunningham remains an active volunteer in the community, having served on numerous boards including the Missouri (Governor's) Mansion Preservation, several local Chambers of Commerce, and a teenage drug and alcohol use prevention program.


Eric Langhorst, Teacher, South Valley Junior High, Pushing the Envelope Award

Interview with Eric Langhorst. [MP3, 8.1 MB]

Eric Langhorst found a way to enhance his history curriculum, make learning more authentic for his students, and collaborate and share materials with teachers around the globe. Langhorst developed 15 to 20-minute podcasts, called "StudyCasts," in which he discusses study guides for upcoming tests. Students are able to download the "StudyCasts" from the classroom Web site, receive additional subject content and study review sessions for tests. In addition, Langhorst often integrates material from the Discovery Channel, A&E, the History Channel and CNN Student News into his lessons. Langhorst's other podcast, "Speaking of History," focuses on effective uses of technology and resources in the junior high classroom. Teachers from around the world have flocked to it. In the last six months, the "Speaking of History" podcast Web site has been accessed by people from all 50 states and 78 countries worldwide, with more than 6,000 individual downloads of podcasts and 18,000 page views. Langhorst plans to expand his podcasts next year to include more student-created content, including interviews with local officials, book reviews, and audio walking tours of Liberty's historic downtown square. In 2005 Langhorst was awarded a Teaching with Cable Award from the Missouri Cable Telecommunication Association.


Sister Elizabeth Thoman, CHM, Founder, Center for Media Literacy, Media Literacy Education Award

Interview with Elizabeth Thoman. [MP3, 14.5 MB]

Sister Elizabeth Thoman, CHM has been a pioneer in American media literacy education for almost 30 years. In 1977, she founded Media & Values magazine, foreseeing the tremendous impact that media and new technologies - computers, cable television, global satellites - would have on American society, especially in the world of education. Over the years, her work has inspired and influenced thousands of students to become active, critical thinkers in the realm of media. In addition, thousands of educators, librarians, religious workers, youth workers, and parents have been introduced to media literacy education. She has provided key advice and guidance in the development of several of Cable in the Classroom's most popular media literacy resources. In 1989, the magazine evolved into the Center for Media Literacy (CML) to encourage new ways of thinking about television and media and to develop innovative teaching resources for exploring the impact of media and technology in daily life. Thoman continues to be a driving force at CML, currently serving as the executive editor and director of programs. Thoman is also one of four founders of the Partnership for Media Education (PME), formed in 1997 to promote professional development in the field through organizing and hosting the National Media Education Conference. PME has since become a national membership organization, the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA), where Thoman provides leadership as a board member and corporate officer. For her most recent project, Thoman has co-written and edited the CML MediaLit Kit: A Framework for Learning and Teaching in a Media Age, a guide to help districts and schools to learn how to implement media literacy education, theories, and practices across K-12 curriculum. She has been a member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary/Iowa for 41 years.


Sue Lockwood Summers, Board Member, PRIIME TIIME TODAY (PTT), Media Literacy Education Award

Interview with Sue Lockwood Summers. [MP3, 9 MB]

Through her involvement with the non profit organization PRIIME TIIME TODAY (PTT: Parents Responsibly Involved In Media Excellence and Teens Involved In Media Excellence), Sue Lockwood Summers has been a leader in increasing media literacy for students throughout Colorado. Her work with PTT and Turner Educational Services (now Turner Learning), has helped spread the media literacy message beyond the borders of Colorado to students and parents around the country. Summers has developed and taught graduate-level media literacy courses for teachers as well. In addition, she has authored three books and numerous articles, all designed to help adults raise media-savvy kids. She annually develops a curriculum for teachers to educate youth on how to analyze and evaluate what they see, hear, and read in the media and how to apply critical thinking skills to make appropriate choices in their lives. By working closely with organizations such as the Denver Post and the Colorado Trust, PTT has successfully formed alliances to spread the word about media literacy. PTT has sponsored media literacy contests and created original interactive materials for community use, including student-created public service announcements. As a result of PTT's work, Colorado teachers have become more familiar with media literacy and have learned how to merge relevant topics into their curricula.


Judson Wagner, Teacher, Concord High School, General Excellence Award

Interview with Judson Wagner. [MP3, 9.3 MB]

As a physics teacher at Concord High School, Judson Wagner aimed to solve a common problem faced by many teachers in today's world of high stakes testing and accountability - how to make it easier to use data generated from student tests to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching. Knowing that teachers have limited time and often limited resources, Wagner developed a set of pre-made spreadsheets, called "Tools for the Reflective Teacher". These tools are designed to help teachers collect, sort, display, and analyze mounds of student data in an efficient way. They help teachers figure out what students are learning and what they are not learning, compare groups of test takers, and collect information as learning occurs with student-centered groups. The program led to significant learning gains within Wagner's own classroom, and it also played an important part in the dialogue among science teachers in the Brandywine School District. As these teachers analyzed and reflected on results of common teacher-made pre/post exams, they were better able to make informed decisions on how their students were learning and how instruction could be improved. From 2004 to 2005, all three high schools in the district improved their scores on the science portion of the Delaware State Testing Program by more than 20 percent. Wagner's school, Concord High School, improved by 37 percent and became the second highest scoring comprehensive school in the state, with the other two high schools in the top ten.


Doris Voitier, Superintendent, St. Bernard Parish Schools, General Excellence Award

Interview with Doris Voitier. [MP3, 13.1 MB]

Educators throughout the country encounter obstacles every day, but when Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana and destroyed St. Bernard Parish, Superintendent Doris Voitier was faced with the impossible task of re-starting an entire school system and community from scratch. Amazingly, just 11 weeks after Katrina made landfall, Voitier reopened St. Bernard Unified School, operating out of tents, trailers, and the second floor of the flooded Chalmette High School. Today this monument to dedication serves as a single campus for 2,345 students in preschool through high school and provides an oasis of calm in the shattered lives of the students. Before Katrina, Voitier oversaw 14 schools and 8,800 students. In the days after the storm, the system's staff of 1,200 employees was reduced to Voitier and her top assistant, Bev Lawrason. With little funding and many displaced employees, Voitier worked with Lawrason to locate staff and begin restoring order to the schools. Voitier took out a federal disaster loan for the parish, hired an environmental restoration company to clean every school campus, bought 22 trailers to house a new school, and bought 60 residential trailers to house her administration and staff - almost all of whom had lost their homes. On November 14, 2005 St. Bernard Parish Schools opened its first public school to 334 students, many arriving from temporary homes more than an hour away, hugging and elated to see one another. In January of 2006, more than 1,500 students were back at St. Bernard Parish Public Schools.


Harriet Romo, Associate Professor, The Navarro Academy/University of Texas at San Antonio, General Excellence Award

Interview with Harriet Romo. [MP3, 13.2 MB]

Harriet Romo set out to create a laboratory school that demonstrates the best practices in early education and provides a learning site for Head Start teachers working to earn their Associate and/or Bachelor's degrees. Her years of dedicated work resulted in the creation of San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD)/University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Early Childhood Development Center, an exemplary child development center at an alternative high school in San Antonio. Knowing that high quality, early education impacts future educational achievement, the Center sought to create a unique partnership model that enhances the learning of students of all ages: from low-income pre-school children, to college-aged teachers-in-training, to high school teen parents, and education professionals. As a lab school for University of Texas at San Antonio, the Center allows pre-service students studying early childhood education to observe classroom situations from the downtown campus through distance learning technology. Most important, the Center serves as a community gathering place, offering a reading center for children with limited language development, parenting classes, and instruction on home ownership and small business development. Thanks to its success, The SAISD/UTSA Center has received a $1 million gift to design and build a playground, continue the UTSA community-based learning projects, and support a Child and Adolescent Development Policy Research Institute at UTSA.


Paul Wilgenkamp, Teacher, Minnesauke Elementary School, Cable Partnerships for Learning Award

Interview with Paul Wilgenkamp. [MP3, 13.8 MB]

"Teaching from the Grave" may sound like the latest cinematic thriller, but this innovative project, developed by Paul Wilgenkamp, transforms students into local history teachers and helps support the local community. By partnering with Cablevision and The Three Village Historical Society, Wilgenkamp hoped to increase community awareness of the need for local cemetery preservation, raise funds, and ultimately provide an exciting hands-on learning opportunity for students. The project received the History Channel's 2005 Save Our History Award, with the $10,000 prize going to purchase a news studio for the school. For the project, Wilgenkamp's sixth-grade students at Minnesauke Elementary School went on a full-day field trip to Setauket Presbyterian Church graveyard to map and collect historic information from tombstones. Over the next several months, the students analyzed the data by creating spreadsheets and graphs and researched historical literature to explain trends in the data. When the materials were compiled, the students correlated the information and presented it to the community, government officials, and history professionals. Through outreach and public relations help from Cablevision, several local officials and newspaper reporters attended the students' school presentation. The officials were so impressed, they allocated government funds to support ongoing graveyard restoration and increase community volunteerism. Cablevision also created an online feature promoting the project on its Web site and aired a story about it on their "Neighborhood Journal" television program. The local success of the program has reached across the country. The History Channel included the completed project and lesson plans in its 2005 Educator's Manual and Cablevision included the complete plans and activities on its Web site.


Kathleen O'Donnell, Manager, The Minneapolis Foundation Destination 2010, Cable Partnerships for Learning Award

Interview with Kathleen O'Donnell. [MP3, 14.4 MB]

Kathleen O'Donnell is the driving force behind Destination 2010, a graduation scholarship initiative of The Minneapolis Foundation. Launched in the spring of 2001, Destination 2010 supports more than 200 eighth-grade students in Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools. These students, the majority of whom are from low-income households, have been followed as a group from their original third-grade classrooms at seven struggling schools. The students are now spread out across 40 different schools in two districts. The program provides a scholarship incentive of $10,000 for college or $5,000 for a vocational/technical school to be awarded in the year 2010, as long as the students stay enrolled in St. Paul or Minneapolis Public Schools. Destination 2010 also provides these students with computers, software and educational instruction. Using Internet access installed and provided at no cost by Time Warner Cable, these students have improved their achievement scores and are now linked to youth programs and community resources that will help them prepare for college. In addition, the Time Warner Cable home connection means that not only the student, but the entire family can benefit from having high speed online service. Parents can communicate with teachers and school district officials via email and the Internet.


Annette Jankowski, Teacher, Surfside Elementary School, Cable Partnerships for Learning Award

Interview with Annette Jankowski. [MP3, 11.1 MB]

As a Floridian familiar with the destructive power of hurricanes, Annette Jankowski is being recognized for both teaching her students about the weather phenomenon and helping make them less afraid of the storms. Jankowski created a classroom weather unit that utilizes professional development workshops, activities from The Weather Channel, and additional community resources. Working with limited supplies, her third-graders built models of hurricane-safe houses that were tested by simulating hurricane-force winds with a leaf blower. Throughout the project Jankowski collaborated with Bright House Networks, bringing a meteorologist to speak with her students and broadcasting the final experiment on a local news channel. Jankowski believes hands-on experience and teamwork are key to student achievement. "Projects like this help students realize they can achieve more by working together, and they make learning come to life, especially since our community was hit hard by Hurricanes Frances and Jean in 2004. I tried to make this a positive learning experience, to arm my students with more knowledge and lessen their fear of hurricanes."


Steve Kast, CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula, Cable Partnerships for Learning Award

Interview with Steve Kast. [MP3, 5.5MB]

For Steve Kast, Connect-A-Kid is a labor of love that started in 1996 when the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula and Cox Communications joined in an initiative to provide Internet access for children who do not have computers at home. When the program began, it served one Club and 500 children a year. It has since grown to reach 11 Clubs and more than 5,000 young people nationwide. All now have access to the Internet to check e-mail, do research for school papers, participate in skill-building activities, and even play games. Through the Internet access supplied by Cox Communications at the Tech Centers, multiple learning activities are available for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula. Technology courses are offered in a variety of disciplines that teach students basic computer skills, as well as how to build Web sites, create professional-quality print materials and animation, use photo-editing software and digital music software, and film and edit their own movies. Built into these programs are pre-and post-course online tests that measure the knowledge gained by each student. The users are in control of how much they learn, and they know immediately whether they can move on to the next level or need more practice. Kast gives credit to the partnership with Cox Communications for the program's growth beyond the immediate area. "Cox has helped us triple the number of youth that we serve," he said. "Because of our local relationship, kids all over the country are benefiting from our partnership formed right here. Our local partnership has become a national model for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Cox."

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