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Winners 2007
Congratulations to the 2007 winners that were selected from 41 finalists. Winners were honored at a Gala event on June 6, 2007 in Washington, DC.  Read below about the winners and their projects - plus hear them tell their own project stories. Listen to podcast interviews with the 2007 winners. 

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Wood-to-Wonderful's Reading is Toyrific
Reading, PA
Cable System: Comcast

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Louise BrownLouise Brown spent her 30-year career teaching English in Montgomery County (MD) public schools. Since retiring, she has become a full-time volunteer coordinating Wood-to-Wonderful's Reading is Toyrific. This literacy outreach program motivates young children from low-income families to read by pairing each student with local volunteer mentors and by providing each child with a library of age-appropriate books and corresponding toys. As program coordinator, Brown recruits volunteers, selects schools to participate, contacts local principals and teachers, selects books and toys and plans monthly Reading is Toyrific sessions.

Reading is Toyrific was implemented in the fall of 2003 in one local school with 10 Comcast employees serving as monthly readers for 240 pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade children from poverty-level families. The program has expanded to include three schools and more than 700 children in 35 classrooms. The cable partnership with Wood-to-Wonderful has also continued to grow, with Comcast employees now representing one-third of Reading is Toyrific's 60 volunteers.

Brown says the most telling element of the program's success is the yearly evaluations from parents when they are asked how the program is helping their child. Some of their comments include: "He is doing better in school and is motivated to read;" "It has helped him speak English better;" "She acts out the story and uses her imagination;" "He practices reading at home, is careful with the books, and has started his own library;" and "The books brought my daughter and me together more. I read and she reads after me."

"Studies show that in order to become successful readers and students, children must be immersed in books at an early age, and Reading is Toyrific volunteers help do just that. Comcast employees participate in Reading is Toyrific each month, reading a book to the same kindergarten or first-grade class throughout the school year. Comcast employees provide children with ongoing encouragement and serve as positive role models for dedicated community involvement." Louise Brown

Gahanna Lincoln High School
Blacklick, OH
Cable System: Time Warner Cable

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Thomas GregoryFor Thomas Gregory and his students, winning awards for their classroom work is nothing new. Gregory has been honored previously with multiple Time Warner Cable National Teacher Awards. This year, his students won more awards than any other school at the National High School Journalism Convention. Their Veterans' memorial project, for which Gregory is being honored tonight, had a significant impact on the whole community in Blacklick, Ohio. In an effort to generate support, raise awareness and fundraise for the building of the Veterans' memorial project, Gregory's television journalism students developed, produced and disseminated a 60-minute documentary featuring local veterans and current servicemen and servicewomen.

His partnership with Time Warner Cable provided support for the students as they developed the project and provided an outlet - via the local on demand channel - to share their work with the local community. Gregory also used The History Channel's Save Our History free educator's manual to help create lesson plans, and to preview various newscasts and documentaries to help prepare his students to create their own documentary.

As the project grew, the television journalism class enlisted the help of fellow students studying architecture to design a $130,000 granite structure in front of their school that would list all of the names of former students who died in military service. The students helped to design, publicize, and raise funds for the project, including staging an "oldies" concert for the community. Students, veterans and area citizens came together to support the project and raised the needed funds in just four months.

"Aside from meeting all the learning objectives, the project seemed to grow in magnitude as students became more excited about it. It has helped students throughout the entire school see that history is all around us. Today's events are tomorrow's history and our very own community has been impacted directly by the events of history." Thomas Gregory

North Ridge Elementary School
Moreno Valley, CA
Cable System: Time Warner Cable

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With the goal of expanding student interest in math, science and technology, Tony Knapp has successfully implemented the NASA Explorer School program in his elementary school in order to inspire the next generation of explorers, scientists and engineers. As part of the program, students are motivated to learn by participating in after-school clubs, designing experiments for NASA, competing in national technology and science competitions and learning directly from visits from actual NASA astronauts and other experts. The school's partnership with Time Warner Cable has given the students access to television production and content, to the NASA Channel and to NASA programming and activities. Mr. Knapp's school has acquired new teaching resources and technology using NASA's unique expertise, partnerships and other resources.

During after-school science clubs specifically designed to provide hands-on experience, the students have developed experiments that have actually been used by NASA scientists. For example, one of the clubs designed an experiment to evaluate the effects of a rocket launch on black ants. This experiment was chosen by NASA, and two students traveled with a teacher to watch the rocket lift off and to examine the effects of the rocket launch on the ants. Other students designed an experiment to study the effects of microgravity on soap bubbles. This experiment was conducted by school staff on NASA's C-9 Reduced Gravity Aircraft. In addition, North Ridge Elementary School has been fortunate enough to have had three astronauts, all with space-flight experience, involved in assemblies for students. Students also participate in distance-learning opportunities with NASA scientists, astronauts and engineers throughout the year.

"As one of only 150 NASA Explorer Schools nationwide, it is our goal to encourage interest in technology, math and the sciences among our student body, especially among under-represented minority and female students. Who better to encourage and spark the interest of our students than the world's foremost space exploration agency?" Tony Knapp


St. Margaret Mary School
Omaha, NE
Cable System: Cox Communications, Inc.

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For 30 years, Linda Coates has been teaching literature to junior high school students as well as mathematics at the junior high-, high school-and college-levels. She is being recognized for her innovative literature curriculum, To Know Me You Must Walk in My Shoes, which exposes students to novels and memoirs covering topics such as racism, prejudice and intolerance. Her students "become" literary characters, allowing them to learn respect and empathy for different generations, cultures, religions and races. Partnerships with nursing homes, businesses and theaters allow students to interact with people who may be similar to the characters in the novels they are reading, so they may better understand the lives of the characters. Each unit has activities which involve the students and make the characters real, so they can "walk in their shoes," by emulating their character's struggles or celebrating their triumphs.

Coates' program started with the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Since the main character is trying to understand the older generation, her students visit with residents from local nursing homes every month throughout the school year. Students study the great depression and black history through videos, speakers and a research paper. The world of Atticus Finch is experienced first-hand with a trip to the courthouse where students witness trials and meet with lawyers and judges. Later, students change into costume and reenact Tom Robinson's trial in one of the courtrooms. Research, personal experience, art and musical theater are used to get the students personally involved as they read other classics such as The Lord of the Flies, The Diary of Anne Frank, Greek mythology and more. Through this program, Coates' students encounter people and situations that help them appreciate and respect those from different backgrounds.

"Using the students' community to bring literature to life is an innovative way for them to interact with and experience the characters they read about. After participating in this class, my students often continue intergenerational friendships, theatrical endeavors and service projects." Linda Coates

James Buchanan Middle School
Tampa, FL
Cable System: Bright House Networks

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Mechelle De CraeneAs a special needs and gifted education teacher, Mechelle De Craene is contributing new voices to the world of social computing. De Craene's innovative project, Very Special Techies, encourages media literacy through multimodal learning opportunities for students with special needs. In addition to using media to aid in class instruction, De Craene started a class blog that serves as a virtual peer support group for her special needs students.

Social computing is the use of information and communication technology to support social interaction and communication. Students with special needs today are blogging, podcasting, taking virtual field trips, locating friends via global positioning systems and even participating in online games in which players interact in a virtual world. Because more than 70 percent of people with disabilities are disadvantaged by the digital divide, teachers like De Craene place great importance on implementing computing in their special needs classrooms. She used pedagogical blogs as a virtual support system and as a way for her students to develop their own voices in the blogosphere. While using the blogs, her students showed increased writing motivation and expressivity (i.e. voice), more comfort with technology and improved reading scores on standardized tests. A study on De Craene's program has been translated into Dutch and Hebrew as an educational resource for special educators internationally.

"It is both fun and inspiring to see the kids' faces light up in front of their computers, and I am happy to know my work has inspired other special education teachers to try multimedia projects with their students." Mechelle De Craene

Assistant Professor
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN
Cable System: Comcast

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Scott McLeodDr. Scott McLeod is the nation's leading academic expert on K-12 school technology leadership issues. In 2002, McLeod and his colleague, Dr. Joan Hughes, received funding from the United States Department of Education to create the first graduate program in the country designed to prepare technology-savvy school leaders. As a result of that work, McLeod and Hughes were named co-directors of the nation's only university center dedicated to school technology leadership issues, the University Council for Educational Administration Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE). CASTLE helps school administrators become technology leaders through its nationally-recognized curricula, its various partnerships, and its creation of free, high-quality resources. McLeod and Hughes have worked with dozens of corporate and organizational partners to provide numerous technology-related publications and resources for school administrators.

CASTLE's innovative School Technology Leadership certificate was the first academic program in the nation based on the International Society for Technology in Education's National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A). The certificate is designed to ground students in the NETS-A both broadly and deeply. CASTLE's groundbreaking curriculum has been shared freely with 15 other universities that have since used the materials to revamp existing classes, create new courses, and even develop new graduate programs. The network now reaches educators all across the country. CASTLE and McLeod are doing their part to help the 125,000 public and private schools develop leaders who "get it" when it comes to technology. As McLeod notes, "When leaders don't get it, it doesn't happen."

"I'm on a mission. We need more administrators who are leaders in the area of technology. While schools are making marginal, incremental improvements, the world around them is changing both quickly and dramatically. We have a moral obligation to prepare students for their technology-suffused, globally-interconnected future." Scott McLeod

Zoey's Room
Rockland, ME
Cable System: Time Warner Cable

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Erin ReillyWhile Zoey's Room may sound like the name of a pre-teen sitcom, it is actually an after-school program designed for girls ages 10 to 14. Co-created by Erin Reilly with Vinitha Nair, Zoey's Room is a national online community that encourages girls to expand their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STem) and other 21st century skills. is the only character-driven website designed to introduce or re-engage young girls with STem using a "culturally savvy, cool tech community." Girls log on to receive one-on-one access to Zoey who chats online with girls every day and encourages them to try online challenges.

As a recognized expert in the design and implementation of thought-provoking and engaging educational content powered by virtual learning and new media applications, Reilly developed Zoey's Room as a way to encourage more girls to study math and science and to explore careers in such areas. While women represent 47 percent of the workforce, they represent only 27 percent of the technology workers and 12 percent of science and engineering jobs. To address this fact, Reilly believes it is imperative for girls to stay interested in science and math throughout school in order to develop into women with successful STem careers. When they join Zoey's Room, girls get to participate in Tec-Treks, which provides hands-on, interactive online and offline activities that expand their knowledge of a range of 21st century skills. For example, through Zoey's Room, girls are introduced to STem concepts like robotics, nanotechnology, environmental science and business math. They have access to female role models working in these fields through bi-weekly chats featuring such guests as a volcano seismologist, NASA's leading food technologist, fashion designers and installation artists using technology.

"I have heard from numerous after-school program leaders that girls who participate in Zoey's Room are more confident than other students, and in a recent evaluation of the website, 52 percent of girls said that because of Zoey's Room they are more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math." Erin Reilly


Media Literacy Advocate/Trainer
Media Literacy Clearinghouse
Columbia, SC
Cable System: Time Warner Cable

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Frank BakerWith the goal of helping teachers connect the visual world of popular culture to the world of education, and helping them effectively teach students about media, Frank Baker has spent more than 20 years promoting media literacy. From conducting annual workshops, to creating the Media Literacy Clearinghouse Web site, to contributing to a national media literacy listserv, Baker is spreading the messages and resources teachers and parents need to help develop a media literate generation.

Baker's Media Literacy Clearinghouse website, called "the internet encyclopedia of media literacy," was designed to help teachers understand what media literacy is, where it fits in instruction and what resources are available to help them teach it. His daily contributions to a national media literacy listerv offer news stories about propaganda, persuasion, advertising, film, television, technology and other media that help teachers connect the real world to media literacy.

Baker hopes his work allows educators to see the media as something to be welcomed and embraced. His recent efforts with the South Carolina Department of Education encouraged the English Language Arts curriculum writing team to see the value of including media literacy in their standards, Baker is now working with the South Carolina Writing Improvement Network to show teachers the important connections that writing has to all media.

"Media literacy is critical for 21st Century learning. This work is necessary because teachers tell me their students tend to believe everything they see, read or hear on the internet. It motivates me to know I have inspired schools to teach media literacy and to get their students engaged in creating, producing and evaluating their own media." Frank Baker


Waseca High School
Waseca, MN
Cable System: Mediacom Communications

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John HansonThe lack of sufficient information on candidates running for local political offices spurred John Hanson to create The Coffee Break Debates. Hosted by the Waseca High school senior American government classes, and webcast and aired on cable television through mediacom, the debates give the community a chance to hear directly from candidates for offices like state representative, sheriff, school board and city council. The debates also offer important learning opportunities for Hanson's students.

Students take the initiative by sending out invitations to candidates running for local and statewide offices to participate in the debates. To prepare, they spend time researching the issues candidates are facing during the election. They then produce a live debate program, including a summary of what they have learned. The recorded debate programs are then delivered to the cable company and aired multiple times, as well as made available in streaming format on the high school website. Through their involvement, students learn from local and state officials about the issues and the electoral process. In terms of television production skills, students also learn about staging, lighting and camera operations. The insight, knowledge and experiences shared by Hanson's students in their summary sessions demonstrate how much they have learned about the issues and candidate qualifications, and more broadly, how they can become informed, educated voters in the future. not only did the students and the community watch the debates, but the local newspaper used the content of the debates in their campaign coverage. The results are impressive: all of Hanson's students who were eligible to vote did so in the last election, as did 75 percent of the Waseca community.

"This project provides an invaluable hands-on learning experience for students who are first-time or future voters. A number of current and former students have shared with me that they have a better understanding of the democratic process and of the importance of becoming an informed voter as a result of their participation in the Coffee break debates." John Hanson

Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School
West Chester, PA
Cable System: Comcast

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Lisa QuinnTaking high school students from an online class to Panama for a month to help teach computer literacy may sound ambitious, but it became a reality for Lisa Quinn and her students. Quinn created the Millennium Ambassador Program that brings 8-12th-grade students from the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, a state-wide, public K-12 cyber charter school, to Panama for a once-in-a-lifetime cross-cultural exchange. They lived among the indigenous Ngobe Bugle Indians. Before the Millennium Ambassador Program, these tribes, who retain many of their centuries-old customs and practices, had never been exposed to a computer, a camera or even a toothbrush. Because of this exchange program, students from West Chester, Pennsylvania are able to immerse themselves in a very different culture, to learn Spanish and to teach computer skills to the Indian students. because they are able to complete and submit all other school assignments via the internet, they are able to spend a full month studying in Panama and getting to know the Ngobe Bugle Indians.

After an initial student trip in May of 2006, Quinn and her students researched how they might be able to help the indigenous students in Panama. Quinn located a vocational school which had just gotten electricity, secured 17 reconditioned computers and made arrangements to ship the computers to Panama. Her students then set up a computer lab where they could train the Panamanian students. In November, more than 50 Pennsylvania students were nominated for the trip, and 22 were accepted. While on the trip, the students completed high school cyber assignments via the internet, had three hours of Spanish lessons per day, and spent seven days living among the Ngobe Bugle Indians. When the students observed that these children had no shoes, not enough teachers in their school, and no clean drinking water, they formed a plan to create a website which could sell Ngobe crafts. The proceeds from the sales will go toward hiring teachers for these children. While on the trip, the students reported on their own studies, producing weekly blogs and a multimedia classroom chat to keep their family and friends informed about their adventures.

"Students lives are changed forever by this experience: they are global citizens bridging the technology divide by teaching others, completing U.S. high school requirements and waking up to the fact that 45 percent of the world lives on less than $1 per day." Lisa Quinn


Federal Communications Commission

Michael J. CoppsMichael J. Copps has shown an abiding interest in the educational and local public service programming on cable; he has used his office to promote local news and public affairs programming on systems around the country. He was nominated for a second term as a member of the Federal Communications Commission on November 9, 2005, and was sworn in on January 3, 2006. His current term runs until June 30, 2010. His first term began in 2001.

Copps served from 1998 until January 2001 as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In that role, Copps worked to improve market access and market share for nearly every sector of American industry, including information technologies and telecommunications. Copps devoted much of his time to building private sector-public sector partnerships to enhance our nation's success in the global economy.

From 1993 to 1998, Copps served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Basic Industries, a component of the Trade Development Unit.

Copps moved to Washington in 1970, joined the staff of Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC) and served for more than a dozen years as Administrative Assistant and Chief of Staff. from 1985 to 1989, he served as director of Government Affairs for a Fortune 500 company. From 1989 to 1993, he was Senior Vice President for Legislative Affairs at a major national trade association.

Copps, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, received a B.A. from Wofford College and earned a Ph.D. in United States history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He taught U.S. history at Loyola University of the Aouth from 1967 to 1970.

"The more I grasp the pervasive influence of media on our children, the more I worry about the media literacy gap in our nation's educational curriculum. We need a sustained K-12 media literacy program-something to teach kids not only how to use the media but how the media uses them. Kids need to know how particular messages get crafted and why, what devices are used to hold their attention and what ideas are left out. In a culture where media is pervasive and invasive, kids need to think critically about what they see, hear and read. No child's education can be complete without this." Michael J. Copps

Chairman, House Subcommittee on Telecommunications & the Internet
Democrat, 7th District, Massachusetts

Edward J. Markey has constructed an extraordinary legislative record since his first election to the United States Congress in 1976. As one of the most senior members in Congress, he has shaped more than 20 years of telecommunications policy. He is one of the most articulate and informed voices in Congress.

Representative Markey's legislative record spans the breadth of Congressional policymaking reflecting his position as a senior member of three key committees, including the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Committee on Homeland Security, and the Natural Resources Committee. He is the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and in the 110th Congress, Representative Markey was also named Chairman of the new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. He is a fighter for the welfare of his constituents in the blue-collar and high-tech communities of his district north and west of downtown Boston.

Representative Markey has served on the Telecommunications Subcommittee since his first election in 1976 and, prior to being named Chair in the 110th Congress, was the ranking Democrat on the panel since 1995 and previously served as its Chair from 1987 to 1995. He is the author and co-author of numerous landmark telecommunications laws, including the Children's Television Act, the Cable Act of 1992, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Representative Markey works tirelessly to advocate for and protect the nation's children by authoring and championing legislative provisions, including establishing the "E-rate" for schools and libraries and the V-Chip for parental control of television.

"In the decades ahead, America needs to compete in a fiercely competitive economy with all of the diversity and productivity and innovation that all our people can muster to the task. Preparing the next generation for this future was what my original E-rate provision was all about." Edward J. Markey

Ohio House of Representatives

Jon HustedIn 2001, freshman legislator Jon Husted quickly established himself as a champion of efforts to improve the education system for Ohio's children. As he has risen through the ranks of the Ohio House, becoming Speaker in 2005, Husted has maintained his commitment to ensuring a quality education for all.

Husted sponsored a law improving charter schools by making them more organizationally, fiscally and academically accountable. Husted's legislation ensures the Ohio Department of Education is a watchdog over the entire charter school program while allowing these schools to be innovative in how they teach. Speaker Husted also played a critical role in creating the Ohio Education Choice Scholarship Program. Under this program, students who attend a district or charter school with ratings in Academic Emergency or Academic Watch categories (Ohio's two lowest ratings) for three consecutive years are eligible for school vouchers. The program provides for at least 14,000 scholarships and is the largest of its kind in the nation.

Currently, Husted is working on legislation to establish the Ohio Core Curriculum and to restructure admission requirements and remedial courses at state universities. The plan calls for high school students to complete a tough new core of liberal arts prerequisites, including more math and science, to guarantee entry into Ohio's four-year public colleges and universities.

"Without a quality education, you cannot succeed in the new economy, and your chances are dramatically lessened. This is what is driving me to change Ohio's education laws to help students be more academically successful." Jon Husted

State of Arizona

Governor Janet Napolitano has made the education and protection of Arizona's children the driving force of her administration. She is an effective chief executive who has focused on moving Arizona forward. When Governor Napolitano took office in January 2003, the state faced a billion dollar deficit. In that first year in office, she erased that deficit without raising taxes or cutting funding for public schools or other vital services. Also during that first year in office, Governor Napolitano tackled a problem that had been ignored for too long in Arizona: the under-funding of the agency that cares for abused and neglected children. She began a series of reforms of the state's Child Protective Services that continue to this day.

Under her leadership, the state has begun the phase-in of voluntary full-day kindergarten. When complete, every parent in every family in Arizona will have the choice of sending their children to full-day kindergarten.

Governor Napolitano believes that just as important as it is to prepare students for life in the real world, real jobs must be available when they graduate. That demands a rethinking of the way we teach our children from elementary school, through high school, college and workforce training. The governor has never wavered in her support of higher education, and she created a P-20 Council specifically to align elementary, secondary and higher education to current and future workforce needs.

These efforts in the area of education and her work to build trade - particularly in high-tech industries - are part of her strategy to secure the stability and growth of Arizona's economy for the long term.

Prior to her election as Governor of Arizona, she served one term as Arizona Attorney General and four years as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. Born in New York City and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she is a distinguished alumna of Santa Clara University and the University of Virginia Law school. She has lived in Arizona since 1983, when she moved to Phoenix to practice law.

"To educators, I say: we will continue to invest in K-12 education, but you must reinvent what you are doing and ensure that we are not simply repeating things the 'way we've always done.' We must change our learning environment to match 21st century needs, and we must do so quickly." Janet Napolitano

State of Montana

Brian SchweitzerGovernor Brian Schweitzer's commitment to education cannot be fully understood without considering his background: his grandparents were homesteaders who immigrated from Ireland and Germany, and his parents were ranchers who never completed high school. After completing his education, Governor Schweitzer worked as an irrigation developer on projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. In 1986 he returned to Montana, where he still considers himself a "rancher who just happened to be elected Governor."

Since his first legislative session, the Governor has worked with the legislature to increase funding for K-12 education. He has also improved access to and affordability of Montana's colleges, hosted a Governor's School Readiness Summit to build a stronger and more accountable early childhood education system and launched a Governor and First Lady's K-12 science and math initiative to help spark an interest in science and nurture a generation that will be globally competitive.

Governor Schweitzer is committed to internet saftey for children and has been an active champion of online safety education and awareness throughout the state. Overall, he aspires to build an education system in Montana that helps fulfill the hopes and dreams of children, parents and grandparents from urban areas like Helena and Billings, the furthest reaches of rural Montana and the diverse Native Nations.

The Governor's programs owe their innovative nature to his practical ranching background. He approaches his challenges not by what will get a sound bite, or by what is trendy in the education community, but by what will work in a state as diverse and challenging as Montana. His programs are designed to stand the test of time and become part of the bedrock of Montana state policy.

"Education is at the heart of strengthening the future for Montana families and their economic vitality. The world is rapidly changing and schools need to be responsive, regardless of where you live in this big state. There is a connection between quality education and economic success. The best paying jobs today and in the future require ever-increasing skills and knowledge; we need to help our Montana kids become students for life." Brian Schweitzer