National School Boards Association Names “20 to Watch” Education Technology Leaders


Originally published by The National School Boards Association.

STEM and STEAM initiatives gaining in popularity

Alexandria, Va. (April 3, 2017) – The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Technology Leadership Network (TLN) announces its “20 to Watch” honorees for 2016-2017. These education leaders from across the country are being recognized for their ability to inspire colleagues to explore and embrace innovative technology solutions and instructional strategies that contribute to high-quality learning experiences for all students.

“This year’s ’20 to Watch’ honorees reflect the different approaches educators are using to advance interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and STEAM which includes the Arts in addition to STEM content,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA, Executive Director & CEO. “From makerspaces and mentoring to afterschool clubs and virtual brown bag lunches with remote industry experts, educators are creating opportunities for students that can have a life-altering impact. Teachers and administrators, with support from their school boards, share a vision for learning that prepares students for future success.”

This is the 11th year of NSBA’s “20 to Watch” program, created in 2006 to identify emerging leaders who would be helping to shape the national conversation about education technology for the next 20 years. “As we hoped when this recognition was established, many previous honorees are indeed moving into leadership positions and are redefining traditional notions about learning as a result of their experiences with technology,” said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s Director of Education Innovation.

This year’s honorees will be recognized during the 2017 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Conference, April 3 in Chicago, Illinois. AVID joins NSBA as a new partner for the “20 to Watch” program. Their generous support will be reflected at the “20 to Watch” celebration events at CoSN and at the annual “20 to Watch” Reunion for all previous honorees which will be held in June at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The 2016-2017 NSBA “20 to Watch” honorees are listed by state/territory:


Luke Meinert, Director of Technology, Yukon Koyukuk School District, Fairbanks: Working in a district that spans 65,000 square miles, Luke Meinert understands rural schools and uses that knowledge as a statewide leader. Recent accomplishments in his district include building an enterprise WiFi system; creating high-end video conferencing classrooms in every school to increase distance learning and enrichment opportunities; and collaborating with telecommunication companies to provide high speed access to schools and communities by moving from satellite-based services to a microwave system.


Joseph Alter, Teacher Art, Career and Technical Education & Science, Hilltop High School, San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco: By using things like the Hour of Code, career exploration of the 3D printing industry, or participation in Engineers Alliance for the Arts, a project which engages students interested in design, construction, engineering, and architecture, Joseph Alter uses technology to help the teen mothers his program serves make connections to their future lives and jobs.

Lisa Highfill, Instructional Technology Coach/ Elementary teacher, Pleasanton Unified School District, Pleasanton: As the co-author of the “HyperDocs Handbook,” Lisa Highfill helps educators shift content delivery away from lecture to student inquiry learning and reenergizes them to meet Common Core standards by using technology resources that support innovative blended learning classrooms. Her work as co-creator of the Teachers Give Teachers OER concept encourages the active sharing by teachers of their best digital lessons.

Megan Power, Learning Experience Designer, Design39Campus, Poway Unified School District, San Diego: Megan Power was one of the designers and founding educators of the Design39Campus which includes nine makerspaces and integrates the latest technology, including drones, in a thoughtful way that puts the learning first and not the technology. She continues to support the school’s highly collaborative culture where students and teachers are engaged in transdisciplinary projects across grade levels that produce real work while also maintaining her role as a 1st grade teacher in this public school.


Sean Wybrant, Educator – Career and Technical Education, Colorado Springs School District 11, Colorado Springs: After Sean Wybrant built the information technology program from scratch, students now have four courses in the game programming track, IB Computer Science, and access to summer enrichment classes in Digital Media Studies. As a co-creator of the STEM Café, students spend a half-day with industry professionals or via distance learning with remote professionals through STEM brown bag lunches. His Tech Chic club connects middle and high school girls with college STEM majors and female professionals.


Dr. Brad Gustafson, Principal, Wayzata School District, Plymouth: The team that Brad Gustafson serves alongside has created a culture that empowers risk-takers, respects student voice, and keeps parents informed. While drones, augmented reality, flexible seating environments, mobile makerspaces, 3D printers, coding, and Virtual Reality are some of the tools students use, it is the pedagogical shift outlined in his book, “Renegade Leadership,” that is inspiring countless other educators to transform learning as well.


William Bass, Innovation Coordinator for Instructional Technology, Information, and Library Media, Parkway School District, Chesterfield: Among his other systemic considerations to the meaningful adoption of technology, William Bass defines equity as access to content, access to equipment and devices, and equity of the experience a student will have in a classroom. He keeps an eye on the future through the Innovation Playground, a research and design space created to investigate new products and approaches.

Dr. M. Jeremy Tucker, Superintendent of Schools, Liberty 53 School District, Liberty: Under Dr. Jeremy Tucker’s leadership, EPiC Elementary has become a model school for creativity and problem-based learning that uses visionary and innovative practices advanced through the use of technology.  He encourages his staff to embrace the concepts of Future Ready schools and align classroom instructional design with project-based learning. As a #GoOpen Ambassador district, he shares the district’s experiences with open education resources (OER) across the country.


Dr. Wendy Loewenstein, Director of Omaha Virtual School, Omaha Public Schools, Omaha: Minecraft, coding, and robotics are part of the state’s first virtual school that Wendy Lowenstein helped create through her work with the Nebraska Department of Education and the Omaha Public School Board. The school’s blended learning model meets and surpasses both local and state requirements and connects students and their families to free, digital educational resources and access to technology that they may not have had otherwise.

New York

Kristina Holzweiss, School Library Media Specialist, Bay Shore Middle School, Bay Shore Union Free School District, Bay Shore: In addition to creating a school library conducive to 21st century learning, Kristina Holzweiss established a nonprofit organization, Long Island LEADS, whose mission is to offer opportunities for educators, librarians, museum directors, nonprofit organizations, parents, and students to learn, educate, advocate, develop, and support STEAM education and the maker movement with its annual celebration of SLIME – Students of Long Island Maker Expo.

North Carolina

Andrew Smith, Chief Strategy Officer, Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Salisbury: The same sense of urgency and vibrant spirit defines Andrew Smith’s style as he leads professional learning experiences for educators and administrators; the district’s 1:1 initiative for students or the digital citizenship curriculum he designed for parents. One wing of his Center for Innovation focuses on R&D for procurement and product effectiveness while the other addresses professional development and includes the Innovation Playground where teachers can experiment with new solutions.


Matthew Henderson, STEAM Design Teacher and 1:1 Initiative Facilitator, Upper St. Clair School District, Upper St. Clair: During the school year, Matthew Henderson teaches the STEAM Design course he developed for 5th and 6th grade students that effectively combines technology with innovation and creativity where students drive their own learning. He ties lesson topics and assignments directly to students’ social studies and science classes and uses Hummingbird kits, Tynker/Hopscotch apps, and Lego Mindstorm to extend coding and computer science and the SeeSaw app to support e-Portfolios as a STEAM journaling tool. Summers are dedicated to the district’s Camp Invention for 3rd to- 6th grade students.

Rachelle Dene Poth, Foreign Language and STEAM Teacher, Riverview Junior Senior High School, Riverview School District, Oakmont: Rachelle Dene Poth, an attorney turned STEAM educator, personalizes learning for her students by utilizing some of the latest tech tools like Celly, Blendspace, and Nearpod. Last year, she taught Hummingbird Robots to students focused on Spanish and French culture and is currently teaching a STEAM: What’s nExT? course that she designed to explore emerging technologies.


Dr. Chris Marczak, Superintendent, Maury County Public Schools, Columbia: Under the leadership of Dr. Chris Marczak, the MCPS 7 Keys to College and Career Readiness established a systemic countywide vision and shared objectives for ALL students, including laptops for students grades 3-12 through its DIPLOMA Initiative. Specialized academies are being created; the Mechatronics programs have been enhanced by industry partners; implementation is underway for Project Lead the Way in all middle and high schools; a cohesive PreK-12 STEAM school was created; and a rural, agriculture-based school is planned in collaboration with the University of Tennessee.


Roland Antoine, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas: Rather than thinking in terms of technology, Roland Antoine views projects as the continuous improvement of student learning initiatives in which technology’s role is defined as expanding the boundaries of learning opportunities. Whether streamlining  IT operations utilizing a cloud infrastructure for managed services and storage, or spearheading the introduction of the computer science program in 32 middle schools, he tackles all district projects with the same passion and focus on equitable access.

Christy Cate, Digital Innovation Consultant, Region 14 Education Service Center, Abilene: To support learning across 12,000 square miles, Christy Cate created COMPILE (Collaborative On Mentoring & Planning Innovative Learning Environments) to bring together the resourcefulness of exceptional teachers in 42 small, rural school districts and support a culture shift to 21st century learning. Recent interests include creating WWW (Waffles & Wi-Fi on Wednesday) for administrators to have a casual place to learn tech integration options and talk about concerns as well as planning an innovation space for educator professional development inspired by makerspaces.

Brent Clarkson, Assistant Principal, Katy Independent School District, Katy: As one of the first teachers on his junior high campus to fully implement a Flipped Classroom, Brent Clarkson continues to share his expertise with others as the co-founder of Edcamp Katy (scheduled for 11/11/17). He also helped launch the #KatyISDchat monthly Twitter chat with the goal of connecting educators in and beyond his district with people they would otherwise be unable to learn alongside.


Kourtney Bostain, Assistant Director, Instructional Technology, Henrico County Public Schools, Henrico: Kourtney Bostain worked with all stakeholders to identify their needs prior to the selection and strategic implementation of Schoology, a learning management system, for 50,700 students, 5,000+ staff, and over 100,000 parents. She advocated for students to serve as members of the RFP committee to promote an inclusive and collaborative selection process. Her work on middle school transformation and the creation of opportunities for her fellow instructional technology staff to ask how emerging technologies can spark deeper learning, reflect her passion for innovation.

Lynmara Colón, Principal, Mary Williams Elementary School, Prince William County Public Schools, Dumfries: Surveys show teachers and parents are pleased with Lynmara Colón’s leadership to transform   education through digital learning with the 1:1 implementation of almost 1,000 devices. Because she kept a sharp focus on teacher professional development, students are now using Wixie, an online publishing and creativity platform; coding in Scratch; learning math and robotics with the help of Sphero; and more engaged in science and social studies with after the recent introduction of drones.

Chad Ratliff, Director, Instructional Programs, Albemarle County Public Schools, Charlottesville: Chad Ratliff leads the district’s expansion of entrepreneurial opportunities through an emphasis on maker learning. His portfolio includes the district’s two charter schools and its customized pathways including STEM, Design, and CTE.  He is Project Director for “Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering as a Driver of Cross-Curricular Change,” a multi-district $3.4 million U.S. DOE i3 grant with Smithsonian and the University of Virginia and leads the district’s efforts in a NSF grant, “MAKER: Studying the Role of Failure in Design and Making” with Indiana University.

# # #

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA believes education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people, and all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential. The association represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S.

– See more at:

Featured Articles