Dr. Sarah Irish
Dr. Sarah Irish - 2019 ACHIEVE Award Winner
By Jeff Bailey
On October 11th, ACTEM board members Deb White and Jaime Ela invited conference attendees to honor this year’s ACTEM ACHIEVE award winner, Dr. Sarah Irish. Irish is a middle school technology integration specialist in Lewiston who previously worked as a middle school math and science teacher in Dixfield, ME.
ACHIEVE, which stands for ACTEM Commends Highly Innovative Educators that Value Excellence, is an award given annually by ACTEM to recognize technology educators in the state who have made a positive contribution to their school and beyond. Deb White described Irish as, “A professional who applies available technology. They move forward utilizing current best practices, and cutting edge approaches-- they see students as real people. They activate student choice and voice. They teach through relationships and are inspiring, encouraging, and nurturing. Teacher and student empowerment is the key element to technology integration. ACHIEVE educators expect success and motivate through awareness and access to information.”
Former teaching colleague Jeff Bailey nominated Sarah Irish for the award because, “She doesn’t ask ‘why, she asks ‘why not?’ Dress up for work in a pith helmet and binoculars to show your kids you are exploring this year --why not. Take-up roller derby--why not. Create a camping themed technology professional development and find someone else to pay for it when your district won’t-- why not.”
Sarah Irish has spent her entire teaching career in a 1:1 MLTI setting. “Working in such a small school district as Dirigo I learned to wear many, many, many hats. From teaching math and science and gifted and talented classes to coaching after school sports and activities, to becoming the unofficial technology integrationist, I naturally helped my colleagues brainstorm ways to utilize the 1:1 devices in their teaching and this led me to pursue a Ph.D in Educational Technology.”
Irish continues her work in technology at Lewiston Middle School “I spend my day working closely with teachers to help them utilize this amazing tool that the great State puts in the hands of every seventh and eighth grade student. I also get to co-teach every now and then...and help create engaging, creative and effective learning experiences for my students.” Sarah enjoys her work with the student tech team, who produces the daily announcements as a news show. They go on assignment to produce segments, including ones from the ACTEM conference itself. They film and edit video, train on-air talent and run the livestream. They also go on tech related field trips to learn more about the technology industry. She is still looking for more technology related locations to visit with her students.
“I’m humbled and honored to be recognized for the work I do with the students and teachers in the State of Maine. Without my parents, and the support of the staff and Dirigo and Lewiston Middle Schools, along with the MLTI program, I wouldn’t be standing here. Thank you ACTEM for honoring me with this ACHIEVE award.
In addition to receiving a plaque, a $2,000 personal check, and a $1,000 technology credit for her school, Jaime Ela presented Irish with a jacket from ISTE recognizing the “Making IT Happen Award” given to “Outstanding educators and leaders who are committed to transforming education through innovative technology integration.” Ela went on to say that, “This award celebrates something that’s very important, those innovators who demonstrate extraordinary commitment, leadership, courage and persistence in improving learning opportunities for students. These often are the people who are doing so many impressive things that they don’t fit into a typical award category and rarely receive the recognition they deserve.
As Deb White urged people to think about who might be a good future recipient, “Think about the teachers in your building: the tech administrators, the tech integrators that can represent you, represent the everyday folks...the everyday people who are doing the hard work. Because that’s what we want to recognize.”