Simpson Elementary media specialist Stacey Dunlap laughs with student Katie Grace Callas. Dunlap was named one of six finalists for the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ annual Teacher of the Year award that will be announced at a banquet on Nov. 7. (Special Photo)
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a six-part series profiling the Teacher of the Year finalists for Gwinnett County Public Schools.
As a media specialist, Stacey Dunlap likes to say she has an advantage over other teachers because she gets to interact with about 800 students at Simpson Elementary.
Passionate about technology, Dunlap said the favorite parts of her job are teaching students about using technology in the classroom, and teaching and being a part of professional development with other teachers. Dunlap, previously a third-grade teacher, has worked as a media specialist since last year. Dunlap said she sees herself as a combination of all the other teachers she’s come in contact with.
She was recently selected as one of six finalists for Gwinnett County Public Schools’ annual Teacher of the Year award. The winner will be announced at a banquet on Nov. 7.
“It’s actually been really overwhelming,” she said this week. “I keep going back and forth to being really excited and overwhelmed, to being humbled by it.”
Principal Bron Gayna Schmit said Dunlap’s experience as a third-grade teacher gives her a unique perspective as a 21st century media specialist who handles multiple responsibilities including teacher, guide, professional developer and technology coordinator.
“What a wonderful perspective to bring to her new role as media specialist,” Schmit said. “She understands the curriculum, best teaching practices, the value of technology integration and the wealth of resources our media center must provide for our students and staff.”
Education is a second career for Dunlap after she served as marketing director for a family-owned record storage business. She went back to school, and was always interested in being a media specialist after she watched her mother work in that position. Dunlap’s worked in education for eight years, the last six with GCPS.
“It’s so important that media specialists are teachers and not check books in and out of the library,” she said. “My job is to teach students how to find, use and create information. In this day and age, it’s one of the more important skills.”
Her goal as a media specialist is to teach students and teachers to become thinkers using an inquiry-based learning model.
“I provide many opportunities for students and teachers to solidify their problem-solving processes by posing thought-provoking questions and scenarios,” she said. “I encourage the sharing of thinking processes and problem-solving techniques to encourage and stimulate lifelong learning.”
Dunlap said she uses resources available on the Internet along with traditional resources. After a student completes a research project, Dunlap helps them use Web 2.0 software to synthesize what was learned. During a recent project on Native Americans, Dunlap’s students used GoAnimate movie software to create a cartoon movie.
“It’s so motivating for students if they know that’s the project they’re going to get to do after all this,” Dunlap said.
Each step along the Teacher of the Year process has taken Dunlap out of her comfort zone, and she said she’s looking forward to next week’s banquet as she’ll be there with her mentor and family.
“I’m so excited about being a part of a celebration of teachers and education,” she said. “I want to enjoy every moment, I don’t want to see what happens next.”