Education research tells us that it can take two to three years to see the lasting impact of teacher professional development. When teachers learn new skills—just like someone starting the piano or skiing—those skills become honed over time. The MERIT Program helps to create professional learning communities, and we are able to stay in touch with graduates as they continue to refine their abilities.
Lisa Highfill, a fifth-grade teacher at Fairlands Elementary in Pleasanton, participated in MERIT in 2010, and her progress over the last two years is noteworthy. While Lisa was already attempting to integrate technology into her classroom, she felt limited in her skills. However, even in her first year after MERIT, she says her classroom was revitalized after being introduced to Google Tools and other Web 2.0 tools. “The first year, I added so many exciting activities and learned ways to share them with a greater audience. I found kids wanting to do more without being asked. My teaching transformed to include more collaboration, which enhanced the critical thinking project I was implementing.” Even now, these students are still coming back, sharing new projects they are creating, and they are entering media festivals.
Two years later, the transformation continues. Lisa participated in the 2011 Google Teacher Academy and was an inaugural member of the YouTube Teacher Academy, where she was named a YouTube Star Teacher. She won the California Media Festival Award (California State Parks category) and was runner-up for the Rambus/KCI Innovation Award for her class project that focused on Pigeon Point. She was also chosen to present at MacWorld 2012 on her class’s work in iPhoneography and tweeting. She continues to broaden her impact by presenting at other conferences as well. The KCI is proud to have her as a member of the 2012 MERIT instructional team.
While Lisa has expanded her skills, the real test is how the classroom is changed and how the students react. “They spend most of their free time plugged in, yet I wanted to show them that technology can involve learning that is exciting,” she said. “I have seen an increased confidence and a new voice for each of them as they express themselves through their creativity. They are starting to become innovators, problem solvers, and thinkers with big ideas for their future.”