“I have served as a technology leader in McGuffey for 13 years, but I’ve usually done that in my spare time, before or after school. Now I’m full time,” she said.
Typically a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher, Engler is strictly a technology instructor at McGuffey Middle School for the 2017-18 academic year. She is one of just 50 teachers nationwide selected to be a coaching fellow in a new program, Dynamic Learning Project, designed to enhance the use of technology in the classroom.
Coaching fellows work with teachers and students on ramping up technology.
“We break the staff out in groups, and break down the process and help them implement plans, help them reach learning goals,” Engler explained. “It’s always what’s best for the students.”
DLP is being employed in school districts in lower-income communities in five states. McGuffey was the only school selected in the Intermediate Unit I area (Washington, Greene and Fayette counties), and was one of 11 districts chosen from Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Digital Promise, a nonprofit committed to boosting education through technology and research, developed Dynamic Learning Project. The organization is working on the program in collaboration with Google and EdTechTeam, the latter a network of educational technologists from around the world.
Google gave Digital Promise a $6.5 million grant to implement the program and is paying the salaries of Engler and the other 49 coaching fellows for the school year.
A Canon-McMillan graduate, Engler has been a McGuffey teacher for 28 years. She obviously is well-versed in science and technology, enabling her to enter a new dimension in her career. She is getting a lot of backing from her district, with Superintendent Erica Kolat, Principal Mike Wilson and Assistant Principal Marc Berry serving as designated support administrators.
By the time classes end in the spring, Engler will have worked with 34 McGuffey instructors.
Kolat said the district nominated Engler for this program in the spring and found out in June she had been selected. The superintendent said technology is integral to McGuffey’s educational process, and that “we try to embed it in courses we offer. We want to make maximum use of this project.”
“In most cases, all (coaching fellows) have great reputations,” he said. “But some may not have as much experience training teachers in the classroom. I have that.”
“You have to have familiarity and a comfort level in any job, and not just with technology. But you must have the ability to learn new technology. It will change with the job and you have to be willing to grow and adapt.”
Engler, a Meadow Lands resident, said teachers “have embraced” the program during these formative months. It is not yet known, however, whether the Dynamic Learning Project will be a long-term initiative.
“We hope it’s more than one year,” Kolat said.
The other 10 Southwestern Pennsylvania schools participating in the program are: Pittsburgh King Pre K-8, Pittsburgh Langley K-8 and Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8; Cornell High School (Coraopolis); Carlynton Junior/Senior High School (Carnegie area); Northgate Middle/High School (Bellevue area); Linton (Penn Hills), Gateway (Monroeville area) and Highlands middle schools; and Yough Intermediate Middle School (Herminie area).