Hempfield School District’s Instructional Technology Specialist Susan Allen describes her job as “a little bit of everything.”
From integrating the district’s one-to-one technology program to teaching kids how to use a 3D printer and assisting in making a balloon animal or two, Allen puts that description to practice. That kind of dedication has been rewarded as 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 focused on educational technology includes teachers, librarians, media specialists, parents and superintendents as members.
Centerville Middle School Principal Lisa Mumma submitted one of several nominations for Allen.
“She’s an amazing resource to have in the district,” Mumma said. “I am thankful that Hempfield has continued to support this position. With our switch to so much instruction involving technology, she is essential.”
In the most basic terms, her role as instructional technology specialist is in assisting teachers and students with what they do in the classroom – particularly with technology. She balances her time between five different kindergarten through grade eight buildings in the district, including Centerville.
Allen has always been heavily involved in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, having taught science in the district for 18 years before becoming a technology coach at the high school level 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.”
In her tenure with the district, she has used grant funds to build makerspaces at Hempfield’s two middle schools and purchase robotics tools such as Hummingbird bots with lights, motors and sensors.
And while many schools across the country scrambled to supply students with technology at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen and her colleagues had already established the district’s one-to-one iPad program.
This paved the way for a focus on training teachers and working with students to make virtual learning run as smoothly as possible.
Allen and her team have also ensured Hempfield students are well-equipped to take ownership of and responsibility for technology in their education.
For example, Allen works with a group of kids called the “Tech Squad” who run an event every day during the middle school buildings’ flex period. It’s at these events where the balloon animals and 3D printing come in, along with occasional bird feeder and sculpture building.
“It gives our students something to be proud of,” Mumma said. “And they rise up to the challenge.”
Mumma added that Allen’s is “the face our middle schoolers know as far as technology.”