Teacher Innovator

Eighth grade can be a tough time for many students, but one District 203 teacher’s innovation in the classroom has made life simpler for her students. Sharon Merel is an eighth grade special education teacher at Kennedy Junior High School and thanks to a nomination from her peers and her use of new technology she is also OfficeMax’s Teacher Innovator for the month of December. Merel was in the midst of an English lesson when faculty from Kennedy and OfficeMax officials interrupted her class, but in this case she was okay with the fact that they didn’t raise their hand before speaking.

“Absolutely unexpected so it was really nice that the people at Kennedy thought to nominate me,” said Merel.

As December’s Teacher Innovator, Merel is the proud recipient of a a brand new printer, digital camera, and a $400 OfficeMax gift card. Through grants from the district, which she applied for, she’s brought new technology into her classroom.

“Last year a lot of her kids really needed help with reading and a lot of times it was just having someone read to them,” said Brian Valek, principal at Kennedy. “She really latched on to the idea of using a Kindle with the voiceover component of it.”

“They already know how to use most of the technology we introduce,” said Merel. “I think we have a great opportunity to show them how to use that technology better and especially students who struggle in certain academic areas I think the technology gives them a sense of independence.”

It’s not only the use of technology that inspired Merel’s co-workers to write the nomination. Other teachers at Kennedy say it’s incredible how she finds a way make use of every second of every day.

“She’s been a huge role model for me,” said Lauren Story, sixth grade Learning Behavior Specialist at Kennedy. “I have been teaching for eight years now and I still come into her classroom and watch her teach and get ideas from her even just inspiring me to write more grants.”

Merel appreciates all of the support from the faculty and OfficeMax but believes she’s just doing her job.

“I might be the face of the award but really it’s a building wide thing. All of us do the same thing,” said Merel.

She plans to use the money on the gift card to bring even more technology into her classroom and plans to apply for more grants to update the school’s technology and even upgrade to the Kindle Fire.

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