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Shaler assistant superintendent honored for use of technology in learning

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
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Kara Eckert, Shaler Area School District assistant to the superintendent, and Superintendent Wes Shipley pose with the Champions of Change award presented to Eckert for her work with the district’s technology initiatives.

Shaler Area School District educators are working to increase technology initiatives, and their efforts are being recognized at the county level.

Kara Eckert, Shaler Area assistant to the superintendent, was named one of the 2013 Champions of Change through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's first Champions of Change award ceremony.

The awards presentation took place during October, which was Connected Educator Month, an initiative of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Eckert was one of 24 professionals from 21 Allegheny County school districts recognized for creative approaches in using technology to enhance learning.

“It was very moving and motivating to have all these people in the same room,” said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of the AIU's Teaching and Learning Division. “It reminded us there are so many programs and initiatives in the classrooms worth recognizing and celebrating.”

“In Kara's position, she has hundreds of responsibilities, but Kara is one of those people who has a vision of what education can be.”

In the past two years, Eckert has worked with teachers and administrators to write and receive grants for large technology initiatives, including the IKS Titan, a virtual classroom that provides students with educational simulated adventures, funded through an $80,000 grant from The Grable Foundation; and the Music Speaks classroom, a high-tech multimedia room that includes a recording studio and movement center, funded through a $20,000 science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) grant through the AIU.

Last summer, Eckert worked to introduce a STEAM camp into the district's summer programs, and under Eckert's direction, the district is in the process of implementing Project Advancing Classroom Education, or Project ACE, with the goal of integrating iPads into every classroom with a one-to-one program.

Currently, every teacher in the district has an iPad tablet to use in the classroom, and Eckert holds regular “App-y Hour” professional-development programs to introduce teachers to apps they can integrate into their curriculum.

Because of her work with Project Ace, Eckert was accepted into the Apple Academy training program Nov. 3 to 8 in Cupertino, Calif., which will provide in-depth training in using the Apple products in an educational environment and provide Eckert with the rights to Apple's professional development materials.

“I do this because this is a passion of mine,” Eckert said of the technology initiatives. “Being acknowledged for that passion is flattering for me.”

Eckert said she is excited about what the future holds as the district's leadership team works to enhance the curriculum with the new technology available to them to “keep moving forward.”

“We've been through a lot of change in the district, and I think we're going in the right direction,” Eckert said. “I see us continually growing with the initiatives … Once we have everybody with a device, we shift our focus to running with the ball.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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