By EMILY RAMSEY
PASSIONATE EDUCATOR: Cheryl Wilkinson, Bixby’s 2017-18 District Teacher of the Year, holds a Chromebook at the Bixby 9th Grade Center, where she serves as the Instructional Technology Integration Specialist. Wilkinson oversees the distribution of Chromebooks and software education.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
As Bixby Public Schools’ Instructional Technology Integration Specialist, Cheryl Wilkinson’s role in overseeing the district’s Chromebook distribution and software training was not something she admits that she foresaw in her future.
Yet, her enjoyment of the job position continues to grow and combines everything she loves, namely, working with teachers and students and, as a math lover, spreadsheets, she smiles.
Wilkinson, who was recently named Bixby Public Schools’ 2017-18 District Teacher of the Year, earned her special and elementary education degree from Harding University.
She began her current position with Bixby in January 2017. She led the distribution of Chromebooks to ninth grade students in August and is now mainly focused on providing student and teacher software training, she says. Wilkinson specifically works with teachers to educate them on the software’s many offerings and match those programs with each teacher’s individual classroom needs.
While Wilkinson was initially skeptical of Chromebooks entering the classroom, “I learned that it’s not about the Chromebooks replacing teachers as much as it is about the software and the teacher,” she says. “The results can be transformational if students have the right, effective teacher using the technology.”
As Wilkinson learned more about the software, she increasingly became an advocate: “There’s a window of possibilities opening up that have never been possible before.”
For instance, the 9th Grade Center biology department was recently awarded a $27,000 grant to purchase microscope probes that plug into students’ Chromebooks.
Peer editing is one software offering that many teachers are utilizing, says Wilkinson. This allows students to anonymously share their writing with other students to gain feedback but without fear of judgment.
Wilkinson, who came to Bixby Public Schools 11 years ago, started in the school district as a special education reading teacher.
“That’s when I began to appreciate the challenge that learning to read presents, that it’s really a code that kids have to decipher,” she says.
Additionally, students’ reading and comprehension abilities affect everything else in their lives, she continues.
It was those realizations that moved Wilkinson to return to school and earn a master’s degree in reading from Northeastern State University.
“That fire grew inside of me; I saw the students with these huge gaps in their reading skills, and I wanted to change that,” she says.
Wilkinson then moved into the role of Instructional Specialist, where she worked with teachers, analyzing test score data and observing students to help determine strategies to improve their reading skills.
Wilkinson spent three years in that position before transitioning to Reading Specialist at Central Intermediate before the opportunity to take her current position came available.
“I have loved all of my different roles,” she says, because regardless of which role she is playing, “the core piece of teaching remains, which is relationships.”
For Wilkinson, her aim has always been to develop healthy, safe, positive relationships with her students in order to help them be successful.
Similarly, in her current position, she has been able to do the same thing with teachers: “Watching teachers be successful, seeing them accomplish a program to institute in their classrooms is so rewarding.”
For a teacher who feels her path has always been to teach, there aren’t many things more fulfilling.
Soon, Wilkinson will shift her focus to training 10th grade teachers who will be working with Chromebook software for the 2018-19 school year.