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Local Educator Named Teacher of the Year

Billeen Carlson named 2022 Teacher of the Year by the Alaska Society for Technology in Education.

The Alaska Society for Technology in Education has named a local educator as its

2022 Teacher of the Year. KBBI’s Emilie Springer has this profile of Billeen Carlson.

Billeen Carlson is a grade 6 to 12 secondary generalist educator at Nikolaevsk school, which means that she teaches all kids in those grades, depending on what comes up. She says in the introduction of a conference presentation, she recently received the 2022 teacher of the year at the annual ASTE conference in Anchorage in late February.

The Alaska Society for Technology and Education, is a professional organization whose mission is to promote access to technology, connectivity to information resources, and technology integration for all Alaska learners. Based on their website, they also promote general recognition of the role played by educational technology professionals, encourage appropriate use of technology for the improvement of instruction and promote collaboration between business, educational entities, and community.

The organization has been around for more than 40 years. And there are some educators participating who have been with it since the beginning, in Carlson's words, “Every year, they pick out teachers across the state to award for certain things. And this year I received teacher of the year. It was very exciting, It was a big surprise. Everyone at the district office already knew about it. And my principal knew about it before I did.” In addition to the reward, Carlson provided five presentations at the event, her 10 to 15 minute presentations included some of the following topics: Google sites for collaboration, universal design for learning and integrating social, emotional learning content into a hybrid classroom, such as Zoom or Canvas classrooms.

All of these included some component of integration in a distant learning environment. Here's a clip from the introduction of one of the presenters.

“This year, and last year I picked up a bunch of distance students from different places. And of course we had been teaching remotely the year before that. But my distance program last year, and then this year, has been, a couple of students here and there, in different schools. My challenge to myself this year was to develop a more collaborative learning environment in my classroom,” Carlson said.

This is an important teaching tool, Carlson explains why.

“We know that reading a community of learners is best practice and collaborative work in the classroom is best practice. It makes students accountable to each other. It decreases anxiety. It makes them more willing to participate, It makes them more willing to engage in the learning, if they feel like they have peers that are on the same wavelength as them, and it helps build relationships and positive relationships in the classroom with you as the teacher and also with other students. It helps with student engagement.” Carlson said.

We talked about the recent ASTE event, the Kenai Peninsula had about 15 educators attend the event, which was huge she said. We were the biggest delegation from any of the districts across the state. There were vendors and presenters from the national level attending. One of the keynote speakers was Brian Aspinall from Ontario, Canada. He has provided several Ted technology and coding talks over the past several years.

Aside from the ASTE conference, Carlson finishes her talk with me by saying I highly recommend that educators and administrators across the district seek out the personalized learning champs that are in there. It's a professional development team and there's at least one teacher in every school that has a champ. We meet four times a year to share our resources on our touch throughout the year to discuss the innovations that are available in the context of personalized learning, with accommodations and modifications offered through technology resources. Some of what the champs can offer is reflected at the beginning of one of Carlson's presentations.

“What works best for special needs kids is what works best for all kids, because we're all diverse learners. And there is no such thing as average. If you are able to figure out ways to integrate a UDL into your classroom, you are going to see an increase in student engagement and success.” Carlson said.

Congratulations to Billeen for her teacher of the year achievement. And thank you for all of your contributions to education on the Kenai Peninsula. This is Emily Springer.