Celebrating Educator Excellence with our First-Ever Discovery Education Award Recipients

McKenna Akane, Alberton School District, Montana

McKenna Akane designs lessons that are interactive, relevant, and meaningful by connecting classroom concepts to real-world applications and experiences. Whether through field trips, guest speakers, or project-based learning activities, she helps students see the practical implications of what they are learning, sparking their curiosity and engagement.

Mrs. Akane has developed a proposal for a Virtual Reality (VR) project and curriculum that will truly revolutionize the way students across the country learn and interact with Montana’s Indigenous community. Working together with the University of Montana, Blackfoot Communications, and several other local partnerships, she has developed a K-12 project to provide meaningful Indian Education for All experiences. Utilizing high-powered computers and 360-degree cameras, students will reach out to Montana First Nations to record language, cultural traditions, ceremonies, and document tribal history from different Nations. In partnership with a VR education company, her students will then create VR lessons and tours and upload them to the company’s course offerings where other students across the world will be able to connect and interact with Montana’s Indigenous People virtually.

Frank Bogden, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia 

Mr. Bodgen uses a variety of materials, technology, and resources to promote the development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills in all students. Mr. Bogden has gone from creating Genius Hours in his classroom to creating a Makerspace complete with LEGO bricks, Ozobots, Makey Makeys, and two 3-D Printers! He is particularly proud of how he discussed and used green screens for a myriad of uses for students. His lessons have inspired students to apply various greens screens to create stories, provide summaries, and create reports on a variety of academic topics. 

Mr. Bogden is also credited with bringing computer science and Discovery Education resources into every classroom in the school! There were many teachers who didn’t know about Discovery Education and didn’t know their students could complete many computer science projects and concepts. The innovative initiatives Mr. Bodgen has spearheaded provide real-world connections, foster curiosity, and recognize the uniqueness of each student.

Rodney Crouse, Guilford County Schools, North Carolina

Rodney Crouse captures moments to hook and leave students on the edge of their seats when he’s teaching. He finds creative and invigorating ways to take students on an amazing learning journey. He infuses content across all core subjects to make learning time meaningful for all levels of learners.

Mr. Crouse recently organized a virtual field trip touring a local museum, the Greensboro History Museum. He knew that students may not be able to see or feel the artifacts and that it was important to get them as close as possible. 

The nomination for Mr. Crouse explained, “He looks for new challenges and ways to evolve as an educator. It’s like he’s on a real-time mission and looking for the schools/students who need him, and he works with district curriculum staff to create units for teacher use. When you watch him teach, he engages and connects with every learner in the process. That’s how he writes units and plans lessonswith students at the center of the learning.”

Debbie Martin, Frederick County Public Schools, Virginia 

Debbie Martin inspires other teachers to utilize resources, including Discovery Education tools, to allow students to independently discover, work collaboratively, and access curriculum in a way that helps them make sense of the world. Ms. Martin takes a vested interest in all she works with, both adults and students, to ensure they have access to the highest quality instructional support and resources.

Ms. Martin led the district to increase the use of Discovery Education as a meaningful and intentional resource that drives student learning, specifically in social studies and science. Ms. Martin used her knowledge of Discovery Education tools, along with her excitement, to help teachers find valuable tools to provide direct instruction, independent discovery for students, collaborative activities, and even leveled reading. 

As Ms. Martin wraps up her career as an educator, her growth is immeasurable. Her ability to coach teachers so that they are driving their own learning and discovery of resources is impeccable. Ms. Martin knows that everyone has different needs and continues to grow her strategies and resources to help others do the same!

Rita Mortenson, Verona Area School District, Wisconsin

Rita Mortenson is a technology coach who helps educators develop their capacity to use technology in equitable, creative, and meaningful ways. She loves finding creative ways to nurture student curiosity and allow them to showcase their knowledge authentically. 

In the Verona Area School District, Ms. Mortenson has used Discovery Virtual Field Trips to pair high school students with various grades for collaborative learning events. After watching the virtual field trip, high school students and students from different grades engage in activities that deepen understanding and create connections. For example, after students watched the Discovery Education/LEGO Virtual Field Trip ‘Play to Learn,’ students from a neighboring elementary school came to the high school to work with a robotics class. They had an opportunity to build and play with LEGO bricks and robots.

When she first joined the Discovery Educator Network, Ms. Mortenson was an enthusiastic participant, and over time, she has evolved as a leader. She recently presented at the DENSI Summer 2023 Institute, the 2023 Fall Virtcon, the 2024 “24+ Ways to Use DE in 2024,” and has a proposal accepted at ISTE that will focus on DE Virtual Field Trips. Ms. Mortenson’s involvement with DE reflects her commitment to her own learning and her contributions to educational technology advancement in her community.

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