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GOOD NEWS FROM SCHOOLS: Gwinnett Online Campus wins Blackboard Catalyst Award for Innovation

The Gwinnett Online Campus was recently named a winner of the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Innovation, which recognizes those who challenge conventional thinking to improve the way education is delivered and experienced.

The Innovation Award honors those in education who think outside the box in areas such as, but not limited to, teaching and learning practices, software development, mobile innovation, cloud innovation and online program management.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards program annually recognizes and honors innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where teachers and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology.

“Gwinnett Online Campus has been recognized as being a school of the future … today,” Christopher Ray, Gwinnett Online Campus principal, said in a press release. “Over the past three years, our vision of students being able to participate in live class sessions from remote locations or attend in person has come to life through the development and implementation of our interactive classrooms. Blended learning models are in their infancy across the nation. At Gwinnett Online Campus, we live it every day.”

Ray, assistant principal Ginger O’Neal and Randi Hill, local school technology coordinator at Gwinnett Online Campus, Gwinnett County Public Schools, will be honored alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during BbWorld, Blackboard’s annual user conference in July.

“It’s an honor each year to recognize forward-thinking educators who are helping create a world inspired to learn through the work they do every day,” said Jay Bhatt, Blackboard CEO. “We congratulate Catalyst Award winners on their vision and innovative approaches to education, and celebrate their accomplishments with them.”

Buford native named valedictorian of Georgia Cyber Academy

Buford native Grace Brosofsky recently addressed peers as the Class of 2014’s Valedictorian of Georgia Cyber Academy, the virtual public charter school’s first graduating class.

Among her achievements, Brosofsky has been honored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation as the 2013 System Student Teacher Achievement student for the Virtual School System. While enrolled at GCA, she also took courses at the University of North Georgia, where she served as President of the Engineering Club and an officer in Math Club and Physics club. She plans to attend Georgia Tech this fall as a Presidential Scholar.

Dacula valedictorian awarded Herff Jones scholarship

Recent Dacula High graduate Melissa Johnson has been awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the Herff Jones Believe in You Scholarship and Principal’s Award, a program in its second year that recognizes student leaders across the country with more than $125,000 in college scholarships.

Each November, school principals nationwide may nominate one high school senior who demonstrates both academic excellence and strong leadership skills. Nominees are evaluated on the basis of academic performance, standardized test results, work experience, participation in student activities, community service and their response to the essay question, “Please explain how a person believing in you has had a positive impact on your success. What did he/she do and how did it help?”

“Missy Johnson is one of the most outstanding students I have ever met,” Bryan Long, the principal of Dacula High School, said in his nomination. “Not only is she the valedictorian, she also plays multiple sports, serves as a student leader in several capacities, participates in several service organizations, and is well respected by students and staff alike. The skill with which she balances all aspects of her life make her a very well rounded and impressive individual,”

Johnson is bound for Georgia Tech this fall where she plans to study biochemistry.

GSMST teacher awarded teaching honor at Williams College

Seth Hersch, a social studies teacher at the Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Technology has been awarded the Olmsted Award for Outstanding Secondary Level Teaching from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

Hersch was nominated for the honor by a former student who is graduating this year from Williams College.

Hersch traveled to Williams College and participated in a special ceremony, known as Ivy Exercises, where he was presented with the award on Saturday.

“Mr. Hersch pushes his students to look beyond the textbook and tests,” Williams College graduating senior Sara Kang told her college while nominating Mr. Hersch for the award. “He provided me with the basic set of analytic skills I needed to attend a liberal arts college.”

Kang, a member of the Peachtree Ridge High Class of 2010 and Williams College Class of 2014, nominated Hersch for her university’s award which recognizes high school teachers who played influential roles in the lives and learning of the graduating Williams College seniors. Sara was in Hersch’s class when he taught at Peachtree Ridge High.

Hersch transferred to GSMST in 2009.

Along with teaching Advanced Placement U.S. history and government, he serves as the school’s social studies department chair. Hersch began teaching in the early 1990s in Massachusetts, and joined Gwinnett in 2004.

Hersch completed a master’s degree in teaching from Boston College and earned his undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College.

A Williams College committee of faculty, staff, and students chose Hersch as one of four recipients from among the nominees. The recipients of the award receive $3,000. In addition, $2,500 is awarded to each recipient’s school. As Hersch has moved to a new school, his previous school and current school will split the prize with both GSMST and Peachtree Ridge High each receiving $1,250.

Keith Farner writes about education. Good News from Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Daily Post.