February Teacher Innovator Award

Each month, OfficeMax grants an educator in District 203 with the Teacher Innovator Award. The honor goes to a teacher who encourages creativity and excelled learning in their students.

The first winner of the year is Karen Barenbrugge, an art teacher at Maplebrook Elementary.

Barenbrugge loves coming up with new ways to engage her students in class. She uses the latest technology in her classroom to come up with projects that are a little different than your traditional artwork.

“It’s a lot of fun because every year I kind of mix it up and integrate with the teachers in the classrooms and I can try different projects, so it’s really fun to experiment with different materials and I really like the variety,” said Barenbrugge.

Mrs. Barenbrugge has been teaching at Maplebrook Elementary School for six years. She’s teaching her students how to create a short animation using Adobe Photoshop Elements.

“Her use of technology is several steps ahead of what other elementary schools are doing,” said Karen Buell, Computer Support Associate.

“She’s always using new techniques, exploring the program deeply so it’s not just developing a lesson plan and stopping there. She always challenges to make it better every year,” said Karen Zahakaylo, Computer Support Associate.

Mrs. Barenbrugge’s creative drive and use of technology in the classroom won her the January 2010 OfficeMax Teacher Innovator Award. She says she couldn’t do without the two colleagues who nominated her, Karen Buell and Karen Zahakaylo. While Barenbrugge has the vision for her students’ projects, the other two teachers provide the technical support

“It’s just wonderful to work with her. She has such enthusiasm for what she does and working with the kids,” said Zahakaylo.

“Karen Zahakaylo, who helps, and Karen Buel has been a great support too. It’s just gotten to the point where we work really well together,” said Barenbrugge.

Barenbrugge is the first teacher at Maplebrook Elementary to receive the award.

“I was so thrilled to get the award, I was shocked,” said Barenbrugge. “When you get something like that and you find out that you’re nominated, it means a lot to me, cause even though I always knew I had such a supportive staff, it just means that much more.”

“She’s very deserving of it. I’m very proud of her,” said Dr. Gwen Bockman, principal at Maplebrook Elementary School. “I’m very proud of the staff that recognized her. And I’m very fortunate that we do have the partnership with OfficeMax to recognize our teachers.”

Along with the award, Mrs. Barenbrugge received a camera, printer and a 400 dollar OfficeMax gift card. This is the fourth year that OfficeMax has been giving teachers in the District 203 this Award.

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