Schools staffer wins tech award

Kathi Kersznowski, district technology integration specialist, honored by international tech company

Kathi Kersznowski, left, accepts her award for “Student Voice Champion of the Year.” (Special to The Sun)

Marc Anthony is on record saying, “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.” Keeping the Washington Township school district on the cutting-edge of the educational technological world isn’t “work” for technology integration specialist Kathi Kersznowski.

Kersznowski, a 20-year veteran of the school district, has worn many hats in her two decades of service. From teaching elementary special education, second grade, third grade, fifth grade and computer class, she finally landed her dream role as the technology integration specialist four years ago. This job consists of finding ways to integrate technology into the district’s classrooms in a seamless fashion. She works hand-in-hand with many educational technology companies like Empatico, Wakelet and FlipGrid.

Some examples of technological integration are her “learning in the loo” project that consists of educational technology posters in the bathroom for teachers to read. She hosts tech play dates once a month for teachers to learn in a relaxed environment. She even gives teachers an opportunity to become educational technology ambassadors in her “Destination Certification” program.

When she’s not in the district, she can be found going to conferences both nationally and internationally to learn what’s new and what she can bring back home.

Luckily for Kersznowski, the recent International Society for Technology in Education convention was held in Philadelphia this year. She estimates 30,000 educators from 80 countries were in attendance.

For her international acclaim and robust following on social media, 14,000 followers on Twitter, Kersznowski was chosen to present on six occasions during the ISTE convention. She presented for FlipGrid, an interactive chatroom for teachers and students, MERGE Cube, which introduces augmented reality, and Empatico, which connects classrooms around the world.

She even presented a session on her invention, Ed Tech coaches playground. This session taught educators how to integrate educational technology in their district the way Washington Township does.

“It was this model I developed myself and we rolled out here in Washington Township, and in three years ed tech has taken off. I got to tell that story to other ed tech coaches,” she said. “A lot of administrators came to learn what it was about; they want to replicate it.”

Presenting six times on subjects held near and dear to her heart wasn’t even the crowning moment for her during her time at ISTE – it came during an after-hours event called FlipGrid Live. FlipGrid Live, in its third year, rented out Franklin Hall to 1,000 people from educators to rival educational technology companies decked out in neon and glow-in-the-dark clothes to stay with the theme “Get Loud.”

Kersznowski said the event includes product updates along with celebrating success stories submitted throughout the year. Six people received awards from FlipGrid for their work, but only one would be named “Student Voice Champion of the Year.”

FlipGrid, an international company that has a partnership with Microsoft, recognizes one person who truly embodies what FlipGrid is about. When the winner was being announced, Kersznowski slowly but surely realized it would be her name to grace the ears of the thousands in attendance.

While she was thrilled to embrace the title of “Student Voice Champion of the Year,” the real prize is bringing the technology to her district. As an ambassador for FlipGrid, she shares its message with teachers and students in Washington Township.

Using FlipGrid, a teacher can give a prompt to a student in the form of a video, picture or sentence. Students will then create a video responding to the prompt. Only the teachers and students have access to these videos. Having this product in the district is key in Kersznowski’s eyes.

“If you want to find out what kids know, start a FlipGrid,” she said bluntly. “It’s all about empowering student voices and letting kids know their voice matters. What they say is going to be listened to and they are going to be heard.”

She praises FlipGrid for giving students a different way to show what they know instead of writing it down and having it graded with a red pen. She even joked this would have been appreciated when she was in middle school. Kersznowski said she was voted most bashful as an eighth-grader.

“If a teacher called on me I’d turn bright red, regardless if I knew the answer or not,” she said.

Since then, she’s become a global presenter, a keynote speaker and now worldwide educational technology award winner. Her passion for educational technology is unrivaled; she is what Anthony had in mind when he spoke about loving what you do.