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21st Century students

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By Rebecca DeSensi

When Oldham County Middle School’s Chandra Holloway Emerson was selected as Ashland Inc.’s Kentucky Teacher of the Year, she had no idea how it would open her eyes to education.“When I went to the conference for all of the state winners, it was a life changing experience,” Emerson said. “Teaching is no longer an isolated practice.”Emerson hopes to share what she has learned with educators across the state, as well as with her students. “I want to help people make effective change in their classrooms.”On April 2, Emerson traveled to Frankfort to address the Kentucky Board of Education on today’s students, and she chose to address “The 21st Century Learner.” Emerson, a language arts teacher, found herself having difficulty engaging students in the traditional classroom setting. That all changed when she added a multimedia project into her curriculum.“The students were so excited about working on it, and even after the project was over they asked if they could continue to work on it,” she said.Emerson and her students displayed their work at a student showcase at a recent Oldham County Board of Education meeting. The students wrote poems and set them to a multimedia slideshow using pictures and music. Emerson found her students “to be so much more engaged when I put them in front of a computer.”When addressing the Kentucky Board of Education, Emerson spoke about engaging today’s learners, and the technological needs that our students have.“These students need to be creating Web sites, they need to be creating multimedia presentations,” Emerson said. “They need to be using YouTube in a positive way and creating Blogs — they do have things to share. We haven’t even begun to use technology to engage our students, we are at the tip of the iceberg.”Emerson is aware of the anxiety that teachers face when moving toward using technology.“There is a lot of stuff out there that I want to do, but I just don’t know how to do it yet, and I don’t know what resources are available for me to learn how to do these things like blogging and having a classroom Web site,” she said. “But after attending the national conference, I can see myself learning this stuff and then creating professional development to help other teachers learn.”Emerson said speakers at the National Teacher of the Year Conference in Dallas, helped her see the strides that Kentucky is making. She says that incorporating technology into the classroom will help Kentucky go even further up innumbers.“We’ve gone from basically dead last to in the middle in 20 years, think of where we can be in 20 more,” she said.Emerson said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, addressed the group on its vision for the states.“We are leaders in accountability and beliefs, not just in Oldham County, but in the entire state of Kentucky,” Emerson said. “The principles of what we are doing in Kentucky are what they want the rest of the nation to be doing.”Emerson is headed to Washington, D.C., this month, where a National Teacher of the Year will be selected from four finalists out of the 50 state winners. While in Washington, she will meet President Bush and also have time to do professional development at the Smithsonian. She also looks forward to participating in technology professional development while in D.C.Emerson encourages all teachers to apply for the 2009 Ashland Inc. Kentucky Teacher of the Year competition. The deadline for applications is May 15. Nominate yourself or someone else online or by filling out the print nomination form that appeared in the April issue of Kentucky Teacher.Print nominations should be mailed or faxed to Donna Melton, 2009 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Program, Kentucky Department of Education, 500 Mero St. Room 1716, Frankfort, Ky., 40601, (502) 564-6952 (fax).