2021 ACHIEVE AWARD Winner- Amanda Nguyen
Amanda Nguyen was recently recognized as the 2021 ACTEM ACHIEVE Award Winner. ACHIEVE Award winners are professionals who effectively apply available technology now. They move forward utilizing current best practices and cutting edge approaches. They see students as real people by activating student voice and choice in education. They teach through relationships, inspiring, encouraging and nurturing. These professionals also recognize that further change is necessary, but understand that it is a process for all stakeholders. They realize that teacher and student empowerment is the key element to technology integration. ACHIEVE Educators expect success and motivate through awareness and access to information.
At a small gathering at Thomas College in early November, the ACHIEVE Award Committee Co-chairs, Jamie Ela and Deb White, along with Executive Director, Gary Lanoie, and ACTEM President, Will Backman, presented Amanda with the award.
Bette Manchester and Jim Moulton, along with several of Amanda’s colleagues from Thomas, were able to join the celebration as well.
To start, Deb shared that “Amanda, as one of our award winners, is unique in that she’s worked for the Maine Department of Education, she has worked in classrooms, and she’s worked in higher ed - she’s probably one of the most well-rounded of the award winners, ever.”
Jim Moulton sees Amanda as..
“an educator whose ‘wheel is in balance,’ meaning that no matter what grade level or situation, she maintains a steady focus on what is best for all learners by working to support all teachers and school leaders. Her understanding of the power of sharing models; seeing and acting on the importance of helping folks engage with and experience what new teaching methods look and feel like is a powerful practice.
To have implemented this method of supporting improved learning and teaching experiences through models from PK-12 to High Ed is a rare accomplishment. Maine is fortunate to have Amanda working here - hers is a voice to be listened to.”
Many of you will remember that Amanda had the opportunity to travel the state with Jim, visiting hundreds of Maine educators and supporting them in their role as teacher leaders. She was welcomed back to Maine as an educator by classroom teachers, administrators, tech directors (many of whom are ACTEM members) and community, business, and nonprofit partners who were helping students thrive and they were doing that with technology. She will tell you that she is one of the luckiest people in the world because there are very few people who get to see teaching and learning at its very best -- let alone hundreds of times over -- like she has over the past five years.
Amanda shared that she has been inspired by these Maine educators who were creating inclusive classrooms, facilitating project/place-based learning, helping students create technologies that solve authentic problems, and finding ways to share and collaborate with others across the globe safely by using the technology.
She reflected: “Beyond learning from all of that expertise, all of those educators helped me see what it takes to succeed with innovation projects. They knew how to use technology effectively in classrooms - in true service of learning, but more importantly, they modeled what it means to take risks when doing something new. They created learning environments that empowered students to jump in and help troubleshoot, reflecting together on what was working and building from there. They had the absolute respect of their students and colleagues - without having all the answers. They also had the grace and generosity of spirit to share those stories with others.”
She continued to say “For me, knowing that I had that network of educators who had both the expertise and empathy for jumping into innovative projects has made all the difference in the world. The MARTL program, #DigCit4ME project, learning labs, student conference, CS and VR days, etc. were all possible because I could learn from Maine’s (and in particular ACTEM’s) supportive network -- educators and vendors -- and know that many of them would step up to co-lead with me if I asked. I hope that they all know that I will be forever grateful for this and I hope they too reach out to me and this powerful network as they continue to lean into innovative ideas and projects of their own.”
At Thomas College, Amanda still has the opportunity to connect with students and educators across the state through various programs (such as last year’s entirely virtual Thomas Cup) -- but also has embraced a new opportunity to lead innovation projects designed to increase the employability of Thomas students, as well as the career aspirations of future students. One colleague said: “Amanda has reimagined our whole professional and career development experience. Students have opportunities to tackle real world problems, work with employers, and build strong resumes for the future. She is doing this by working with colleagues across departments and with employer partners across the state. Her work really exemplifies what is possible at Thomas College.”
At the event, Thomas College President, Laurie Lachance, said: “We’re so proud of the work that you do. You’ve worked with everyone in this room, and you’ve set a new standard for us, and are taking us to a level that we’ve only dreamed of. Thank you for your work - very well deserved”.
Additionally, Amanda has recently served on the ACTEM Conference Committee and is excited to co-chair the committee with Stephanie Cheney next year - and hopefully see all of you in person! She also serves as an ISTE Community Leader, and enjoys the opportunity to continue to collaborate with educators across Maine (and the globe) to support learning and teaching with technology. In her spare time, she still adventures around the state of Maine - now with the goal of truly appreciating the beauty of the Maine outdoors, collecting state park stamps, and continuing to enjoy visits to the communities that many of the educators reading this article have introduced her to over the past few years. Amanda is a graduate of both Bowdoin College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, maintains her Maine certification for the level of Assistant Superintendent, and enjoys a great diversity of lifelong-learning experiences - from cooking and craft classes to opportunities to learn from others informally each day.
ACTEM’s ACHIEVE winners receive a personal cash award of $2,000 along with a $1,000 gift certificate to be used by their school for technology related purchases. They are also awarded the Making IT Happen award from ISTE. The Making IT Happen award honors outstanding educators and leaders who demonstrate extraordinary commitment, leadership, courage and persistence in improving digital learning opportunities for students.
Congratulations to Amanda Nguyen, the 2021 ACHIEVE Award winner!