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The 2013 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District BP Teacher of the Year

Join KPBSD and BP to congratulate and extend appreciation for Rob Sparks, the 2013 BP Teacher of the Year in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District! Sparks received the award in a ceremony May 1, 2013, at the Soldotna Senior Center. The award includes a $1,500 scholarship for continuing education and a bronze sculpture by Alaska artist Mary Regat.

Sparks teaches social studies, tenth grade world history, and twelfth grade government at Skyview High School. "For years Rob has distinguished himself as one of KPBSD's more innovative teachers; I am pleased to see him recognized in this way," said Dr. Steve Atwater, superintendent. "I ask that all of KPBSD join me in congratulating him and the other six BP Teachers of Excellence."

During the May 1, 2013 awards presentation, Janet Weiss, president of BP (Alaska) spoke to the gathered group of educators, family members, school board members, community leaders and said, "This teacher does not let students fail. This teacher finds students during lunch and brings them to the classroom to complete any missing assignments. They make every assignment and every project important. And they do what is undisputedly the most important job of an educator: they teach students how to think, not what to think.

One student says: "He was my teacher for my sophomore year and he just made it great. If I needed to talk to him he would listen. If I had a bad day, he would brighten it. He made class fun every day. Even when I was sick I would come to school just to go to his class."

A parent comments: "He has always gone out of his way to engage students in the active learning process. As a parent of a special needs student, he has always tried to find a way to engage my child in the activities of his class."

 

This teacher believes in taking advantage of technology to broaden his student's horizons and connect them with each other and the outside world. Parents, colleagues, students and members of the community would agree that this teacher tirelessly and consistently generates a "spark" that energizes the education process."

Sparks was deeply moved by the award and recognition. Dozens of former students and colleagues have shared positive comments on the KPBSD Facebook page, where an announcement of the recognition was posted. Sparks wrote, "I appreciate administrators, IT staff, district office staff, and fellow teachers who support our efforts to bring new ideas to the classroom. Mr. Zorbas and I often need flexibility and new technologies to accomplish the goals we set, and whenever we have asked for anything extra people have encouraged us and provided us with the needed assistance. Most importantly I appreciate the students. Over the years as we have developed our Classroom WithOut Walls (CWOW) program, our students have been our motivation. Their acceptance of new teaching strategies and new technologies inspire us to continually improve our teaching.

I'm inspired when a student from KCHS acknowledges me as one of their teachers. On several occasions Kenai students have recognized me in the community or at different events and have taken the time to speak with me. I'm also inspired when a 35 year old mother of three comes up to me in the grocery store and introduces me to her children and then thanks me in front of them for being their teacher. I'm inspired when kids come to my class and are eager to get working because they enjoy what we are doing!" – Rob Sparks

Believing education is a 24-hour experience, Sparks encourages his students to discuss information from school at home, and has received numerous comments from parents who say their children are knowledgeable about events and subjects they never had interest in before. Sparks is a co-creator of the Classroom WithOut Walls (CWOW) Program which allows students to use digital devices and mobile technologies to connect with other parts of the world. Through CWOW, students have discussed important historical events with people who lived through them, and have been a part of videoconference lessons with students in Afghanistan, Kenya, Israel, Yemen and numerous states. This global teaching is bringing a new sense of learning and connectedness to the students at Skyview High and across the Peninsula.

"Rob Sparks was nominated for a national award from the International Society for Technology in Education, and is the Classroom Without Walls instructor. CWOW is a series of cross-cultural lessons taught by local educators delivered in real-time through video-conferencing, connecting Skyview students with students at Kenai Central High School, in Pennsylvania, in Texas, in California, and all over the world. Rob has also used CWOW to hold special events with students in Israel, Kenya, Afghanistan, Russia, and Yemen. Rob engages all his students with 1-1 computers using video conferencing and other twenty-first century skills in his classroom. Rob is definitely one of our finest educators always challenging students to achieve their best," said Randy Neill, Skyview High School principal.

The BP Teachers of Excellence program recognizes Alaska teachers for their dedication to teaching and for inspiring students. Nearly 1,400 nominations were received this year from across the state. The seven Kenai Peninsula teachers are among 30 Alaska educators honored as 2013 Teachers of Excellence. Each teacher receives $500, and their school receives a matching $500 grant.

Link: BP Teachers of Excellence  


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