Susan Allen, an instructional technology specialist at the Hempfield School District, describes her work as “a bit of everything.”
From integrating the individual district technology curriculum to teaching kids how to use a 3D printer and helping build a balloon animal or two, Allen puts that description into practice. That kind of dedication was rewarded when the Pennsylvania Association for Education Communications and Technology named her Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2022.
The association, a local affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education, has more than 3,000 members across the state. The nonprofit organization focused on educational technology includes teachers, librarians, media specialists, parents, and superintendents as members.
Centerville Middle School principal Lisa Mumma submitted one of many nominations for Allen.
“She is an incredible resource to have in the district,” Mumma said. “I am grateful that Hempfield has continued to support this position. With our shift to so much instruction involving technology, it is essential.
In the most basic terms, his role as an instructional technology specialist is to help teachers and students with what they do in the classroom, especially with technology. She splits her time between five different kindergarten through eighth grade buildings in the district, including Centerville.
Allen has always been heavily involved in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, having taught science in the district for 18 years before becoming a high school technology coach in 2007. A few years later, she stepped into her current role. .
“Every day is different,” Allen said. “There’s always something new around the corner to explore and investigate.”
During her tenure in the district, she used grant funds to build makerspaces at both Hempfield colleges and purchase robotic tools such as Hummingbird robots with lights, motors and sensors.
And while many schools across the country rushed to provide students with technology at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen and his colleagues had already established the district’s individual iPad program.
This paved the way for a focus on teacher training and collaborating with students to make virtual learning as smooth as possible.
Allen and his team have also ensured that Hempfield students are well equipped to embrace and take responsibility for technology in their education.
For example, Allen works with a group of kids called “Tech Squad” who hold an event every day during the college buildings’ flex time. It is during these events that balloon animals and 3D printing come into play, along with the occasional construction of bird feeders and sculptures.
“It gives our students something to be proud of,” Mumma said. “And they’re up to the challenge.”
Mumma added that Allen is “the face our college kids know when it comes to technology.”