selected as finalist for Ohio teacher of year
Don Nowak doesnt like to talk about himself. Asked for an interview,
he declines. When pressed to talk, he points you instead to the Web site
he maintains for Mills Lawn School, where he teaches sixth grade, and
pretty soon you realize you dont need that interview after all,
since the Web site shows all you need to know about Nowak his love
for Mills Lawn, his enthusiasm for teaching and his own joy in learning.
Those traits led the Southwestern Ohio Instructional Technology Association
to select Nowak as a finalist for the 2003 Ohio Technology Teacher of
the Year Award. Only 16 finalists were chosen statewide for the award,
and the winner will be announced in January.
Innovation is constant in Dons teaching style, Jackie
Arnold, a former Mills Lawn teacher and current project coordinator for
the Institute for Technology-Enhanced Learning at University of Dayton,
wrote in her nomination letter. After over 30 years of teaching,
Don continues to strive for the best teaching methods for each and every
student in his room.
His enthusiasm for technology grew from seeing how it helps children learn,
My main interest is finding the ways technology can help students
do it easier and better, he said. It can streamline their
work and gives them different ways to learn.
For example, during a recent study of Egypt, Nowak created for his students
an Internet search that focused on the question, who really owns the Rosetta
Stone? Divided into French, British and Egyptian teams, students could
surf to 30 Web sites to find the answers in their search in a variety
of ways, including a virtual tour of the Louvre Museum in Paris.
As the sixth-grade students begin to learn about the Rosetta Stone,
they find themselves personally involved in the conflict because they
each study it from the perspective of one of the parties concerned over
its ownership, Arnold said in her letter. The teams
are on their way to learning about history intimately.
Nowak has created other Web-based instructional materials, said Arnold,
including The Great African American History Search to enlighten
his students on the achievements of some great individuals, which
won the Microsoft Encarta Lesson Contest, and a similar lesson called
Search for Great Figures of World War II.
A self-taught Webmaster, Nowak models life-long learning for other Mills
Lawn teachers, said Mills Lawn Principal Christine Hatton. For instance,
Nowak has provided in-service training to his Mills Lawn colleagues on
using e-mail to communicate with parents, using digital cameras as a learning
tool and using electronic grade books, Hatton said.
As Webmaster of the Mills Lawn School Web site, Nowak is responsible for
showing Mills Lawn off to the world, in a style both personable and professional,
said Hatton, who said her sister, a Web design professional, regularly
has her interns study the Mills Lawn site for its level of professionalism.
The site, www.yellowsprings.k12.oh.us/ys-mls, includes, among other things,
information about a variety of the schools recent activities, such
as the recent Evening in Egypt and a trip to COSI in Columbus, plus an
update on Japanese penpals. The Web site also offers the Great African
American History Search as well as a quiz on microorganisms, all formatted
with lively photos and artwork, plus updates on the ongoing construction
Im blown away by his expertise, said Hatton.
Since the Web site got up and running almost two years ago, its
received 45,000 hits from visitors and averages 500700 hits per
week, said Nowak. He said he spends 10 to 15 hours a week, outside class
time, updating material. The site has won eight national and international
awards, wrote Arnold. Nowak updates material on a nearly daily basis
in an attempt to keep the information current and useful to Mills Lawn
students, their families, their teachers and a much wider community,
While hes enthusiastic about high tech teaching methods, Don Nowak
appreciates traditional approaches as well, said Hatton, who said she
especially enjoys listening to Nowak reading stories out loud to his students,
which he does every day.
Whether his teaching methods are high tech or low tech, Nowak wants to
do right by his students. Most important, said Hatton, is that the children
know that he cares.
The kids have a great regard for him, she said.