150 Napa County Teachers Earn Innovative Learning Master’s Degrees

Julie Meyer-Houston Named NapaLearns Fellow of the Year

NapaLearns Press Release
Published on February 8, 2019

Napa, Calif. — At a celebratory reception on Wednesday, February 6th, NapaLearns honored 150 Napa County teachers who went back to school to earn their master’s degrees in Innovative Learning from Touro University. Called NapaLearns Fellows, these graduates represent 33 percent of the teachers with master’s degrees in Napa County. The Innovative Learning degree was co-designed in 2010 by NapaLearns and Dr. Pamela Redmond, professor and chair of graduate studies at the School of Education at Touro University. To date, 98% of the teachers enrolled in the program have graduated and 97% of them have remained in Napa County. NapaLearns subsidizes half of the costs for any Napa County public school teacher who completes the 18-month program. Since its inception, NapaLearns has invested $750,000 in the program.

The NapaLearns Fellow Program

“The NapaLearns Fellows program is designed to help teachers integrate technology into their teaching practices,” said Peg Maddocks, executive director of NapaLearns. “Today’s students are very comfortable working in digital environments. However, their teachers have not grown up with the same tools. This degree provides opportunities for teachers to adapt their curricula using innovative technologies for learning to interact with their students on the same playing field. As a result, teachers who have participated in the program are re-energized and more effective, and students are more engaged.”

The NapaLearns Fellows program attracts participants from every school level. So far, 47 teachers from elementary schools, 52 from middle schools and 43 from high schools have participated, representing Calistoga Joint Unified, Howell Mountain Elementary, Napa Valley Unified and St. Helena Unified school districts. In addition, eight district administrators have graduated from the program.  

“As our world becomes more connected and technology develops at a faster pace, we need to make sure our education keeps up,” stated Congressman Mike Thompson. “Right now there’s a skills gap here in Napa County. Not enough workers are trained to fill the jobs available. That’s where this master’s program comes in. These teachers’ dedication to develop their skills to support student engagement and the reimagination of learning is crucial. They are discovering the best ways to use new technologies in their classrooms and to better teach the skills of the future.”

Senator Bill Dodd added, “Education is an investment in our future that will pay dividends in years to come. It is essential for our economic vitality and social mobility. The partnership between NapaLearns and Touro University and the Innovative Learning degree provides our teachers with effective strategies to meet the requirements of a future Napa County technology-based workplace. I’m particularly proud to see this happening in my hometown to help close achievement gaps and provide more opportunities for our teachers to improve their practice.”

NapaLearns Fellow of the Year Award

At the commemorative event, NapaLearns and Touro University announced the NapaLearns Fellow of the Year, along with three runners-up. The four teacher finalists were recognized for continuing to innovate in their classrooms, taking on leadership roles within their schools and districts, and most importantly, impacting student success. The highest award was $1,000 and the runners-up received $250 each.

Maddocks and Redmond honored Ms. Julie Meyer-Houston with the inaugural NapaLearns Fellow of the Year award. Meyer-Houston teaches fourth grade at Napa Valley Unified School District’s (NVUSD) Canyon Oaks Elementary School in American Canyon. Among her many accomplishments, she was recognized for leading the 100% schoolwide participation in the annual national Hour of Code; for introducing robotics to the entire school; and for creating a Family STEAM Night at Canyon Oaks, where her students taught the community how to use 3D robots.

“Julie brought robotics to Canyon Oaks Elementary School,” said Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent. “Her leadership and innovative spirit convinced her colleagues and District leadership that robotics needs to be included in the elementary curriculum. This is well-deserved recognition of a teacher taking it to the next level.”

“After teaching for 12 years, I obtained my Innovative Learning master’s degree in 2017,” said Julie Meyer-Houston. “Since then, I utilize the philosophy of ‘fail quickly to learn better and faster’ with my colleagues, students and parents. As a result, my students are experiencing more success than ever. Parents are seeing higher levels of perseverance and self-directed learning from their children. Additionally, with the encouraged use of technology, students are practicing and completing more assignments, which is resulting in quantitatively higher assessment scores than in previous years. The Touro University master’s degree program has inspired my teaching practice and I am extremely grateful to NapaLearns for supporting this program.”

Three other NVUSD teachers were recognized for their innovative work: Jen Ellison, technology design lab teacher at Phillips Magnet Elementary School; Lisa Gottfried, digital design educator at New Tech High School; and Scott Marsden, digital media teacher and robotics coordinator at American Canyon High School.

“We are so proud of the work and creativity all these NVUSD teachers bring to their classrooms,” summarized Dr. Rosanna Mucetti, superintendent of Napa Valley Unified. “This recognition is a testimony to the dedication our teachers bring to improving their skills and engaging our students every day.”

About NapaLearns

NapaLearns is a nonprofit with a bold mission – to equip every student in Napa County with the skills they need to thrive in college, careers and their community. NapaLearns has invested millions of dollars in innovative public education programs that improve graduation rates, boost academic achievement and ensure that students have the skills to compete in the workforce of tomorrow. Learn more at

This press release appeared as an article in The Register on February 8, 2019.

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