The Civic Center has been host to many events over the years, probably including a magic show. Regardless, there was a little sleight of hand at the annual ACTEM awards banquet October 14, at the Augusta Civic Center. With the ACTEM Board deciding to offer the John Lunt Friend of Technology Award in 2010 to Bob and Diana Sommers of Wiscasset and it being a secret for as long as possible, it took some work to maintain the suspense.
The John Lunt Award was created to recognize individuals who have had a vital impact in the field of educational technology throughout the state. John Lunt was ACTEM President from 1996-2002 and chaired the conference committee for 10 years through the 2005 conference. Previous winners of the award are John Lunt, former Governor Angus King, and Floyd Calderwood.
Fortunately, there was another plot line. Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Alan Hawkins is retiring this year. He has the distinction of being the only Superintendent to have two Technology Educators of the Year in two different districts (Karen Abbott this year from Cape and Sarah Sutter from Wiscasset in 2004). So Alan Hawkins was present at the dinner for Bob and Diana, and Bob and Diana were there for Alan. -- It was a surprise.
“The John Lunt Friend of Technology award this year is going to a dynamic team, who have been seriously involved in technology in their own school districts and the state level for a long, long time - Bob and Diana Sommers,” said ACTEM President CrystalPriest. “They’ve been tech coordinators and teachers in the Wiscasset School system for over 35 years. They’ve also been involved in ACTEM for about as long. According to John Lunt, Bob and Diana would show up regularly at ACTEM meetings when only a half dozen people would show up. They were involved in ACTEM before ACTEM was ACTEM.”
“Bob and Diana are always exploring new ways to expand their knowledge whether it be attending Apple workshops, outside classes, or attending ACTEM conferences, they are always learning,” said Christina McCue, K-4 Technology Coordinator/Instructor for the Wiscasset Schools. “Personally I have learned volumes from both of them as they have encouraged and supported me in my job as the coordinator at the Primary School. I cannot imagine Wiscasset without the Sommers. They are the technology department.”
The Sommers were surprised. “I was told I was coming here to roast somebody else,” said Diana. “There were little things I kept thinking that were kind of odd but all right. Why would Crystal call my Superintendent to get me out of a Board meeting?”
The list of contributions by the Sommers to ACTEM and the students of Wiscasset and Maine is long. “Among other things Diana has been ACTEM vice president, and she chaired the Marco Polo project,” said Priest. “Both Bob and Diana are always willing to lend a hand. If you look around an ACTEM event, probably they are somewhere in the background helping out making it work. And you can be pretty sure that if one of them volunteers for a project, you get both of them.
For years Diana has chaired the nominating committee for ACTEM. Charged with finding officers. I have to say from personal experience, she is very good at the soft sell. Personally, I want to thank you for the opportunity for me to be up here doing this.” Both Bob and Diana have presented countless times at the MAINEducation Conference going back to the late 80s when they offered a session, “What to Do? One Computer and 30 Kids.” The pair began using Radio Shack TRS-80s in the late 1970s, followed by the Apple IIe in the early 1980s. Helping to take Wiscasset students and teachers from nothing to a fully- networked operation with 1-to-1 grades 5-12 is an accomplishment Diana and Bob can reflect upon with pride.
“When we first started you had to write your own programs or copy them out of magazines, then save them to a cassette to load in the computer,” Bob notes. “There were no hard drives in those early days.” Arguably, Bob sports one of the top collections of antique educational hardware in Maine which includes the TRS-80, Apple IIe, original Mac with floppy drive, Mac SE, SE30, LC II and LC III. Bob also has had a strong impact with students outside of technology.
“It seems Sarah Sutter and Tim Hart were both on Bob’s teams over the years,” said the ACTEM President. “Tim talked about Bob’s intensity during a game with the red face but also about how he would turn into a big teddy bear afterwards. About what a great job they did and how proud he was of them.
According to Tim, Wiscasset won the 1994 state soccer championship because of Bob’s leadership. “The district certainly owes a lot to Bob and Diana’s efforts throughout the years,” said Sarah Sutter relayed by Priest. “It was their forward thinking decades ago that put us in the position to have the technology infrastructure we have in place we have today. Without them we would be way behind the curve.”
When Diana was selected to become the Director of Technology for the newly created RSU 12 in 2009, she handled the challenge of overseeing technology for eight schools with over 2000 her customary a plomb. students with Wiscasset Middle School principal Linda Bleile characterizes Diana and Bob as “passionate about their craft”and has long been thankful the two chose to teach in Wiscasset. “I have personally known both of them for 37 years and would say that you could not find two more dedicated educators, “ Bleile emailed. “ We are so fortunate to have them both working with us.”
“Leadership, teamwork, dedication, constant willingness to lend a hand, to try out new things, to share what they know,” said Priest. “These comments kept coming up over and over about Bob and Diana. Not only is that a great legacy, it is also a great set of reasons why ACTEM is awarding them with the John Lunt Friend of Technology Award.”