Annual technology Golden Bell Award presented to NCOE and NapaLearns 

Each year, the California School Board Association presents its Golden Bell awards, which recognize leadership provided by programs that improve student achievement.

This year, the Napa County Office of Education (NCOE) and NapaLearns received the Golden Bell in the Technology Category for their Digital Innovator program.

This is the 15th time that NCOE has received the award for its innovative work, but the first time in partnership with NapaLearns. A $1,000 donation sponsored by Climatec, a private company supporting educational excellence, will go to NCOE to support the program.

It takes more than technology

NCOE and NapaLearns recognized that technology alone wasn’t going to improve student achievement. The best combination is great teachers working with technology to engage students.

A NapaLearns public-private partnership provided 170 scholarships for teachers throughout the county to earn their master’s degrees in innovative learning from Touro University.

Digital Innovator program participants achieve impressive outcomes

Bringing these skills to the other 800 teachers in the county proved to be challenging. To expand the brain trust, NapaLearns and NCOE created the Digital Innovator program to allow the new ed-tech experts to share their wisdom and experiences with K-12 teachers in Napa County. More than 40% of Napa Valley educators have participated in learning events hosted by the program; 400 of them joined in 2020.

Some of the projects that resulted include:

— Students at Phillips Elementary led by fifth-grade teacher, Jennifer Ellison, created their own games for submission to tech companies.

— Middle school students at American Canyon Middle School are learning algebra through robotics taught by Tammy Lee.

— New Tech High School graphics design teacher, Lisa Gottfried, had her students create original artwork composed of lighting and sound design, which was publicly displayed at last year’s Napa Lighted Art Festival.

“The collaboration of the Napa County Office of Education and NapaLearns allowed us to move smoothly to digital learning,” said Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County Office of Education superintendent. “When the pandemic struck, we had a cadre of very tech-savvy teachers able to help their colleagues. Teachers had a support structure readily available and students were able to engage in digital lessons quickly.”

This article was originally published in the Napa Valley Register on December 14, 2020.