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ORAU Awards Gresham Middle With $25,000 Extreme Classroom Makeover

Holston Middle and Norris Elementary also Awarded Runner-up Prize Packages

May 4, 2009

ORAU Extreme Classroom Makeover Winners

Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre surprised Gresham Middle School science teacher Jenny Alvey when they announced her classroom had been chosen for the first ORAU Extreme Classroom Makeover-a local competition awarding the winning classroom with the latest interactive technology and a year’s worth of training and support.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Gresham Middle School science teacher Jenny Alvey was surprised Monday when Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Interim President and CEO Homer Fisher dropped by her classroom unannounced and declared her class the grand-prize winner of the ORAU Extreme Classroom Makeover.

The local competition awards the winning classroom with the latest interactive technology and a year’s worth of training and support–a prize package estimated to be valued at $25,000. Holston Middle School in Knox County and Norris Elementary School of Anderson County were also chosen as the competition’s two runner-ups.

Out of more than 20 submitted video entries, Alvey’s winning video effectively demonstrated the challenge she faces each day when teaching her multi-tasking, technology savvy sixth graders.

“In the workplace, people have to collaborate and come up with solutions. They don’t work in isolation and the answer is almost never something that can be measured with a multiple choice test,” said Alvey. “Why not use technology and the tools they already understand and love to engage the students, give them real-world skills, and help them develop creative thinking?”

Referencing the 2001 federal law enacted by President Bush to improve the performance of the nation’s primary and secondary schools, Alvey went on to say, ”The problem isn’t a child being left behind, the problem is the teacher and school being left behind.”

Over the years, ORAU’s university consortium, as well as strong partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have uniquely positioned the company as a strong advocate for the promotion of science education.

“While there are many different challenges we face in advancing our nation’s competitiveness, ensuring excellence in the preparation of the next generation of scientists and engineers is certainly one of the more pressing needs affecting our school’s and universities,” said Fisher. “We hope the ORAU Extreme Classroom Makeover will not only draw attention to the educators who are working the front lines, but also illustrate how technology within the classroom can help those individuals inspire more students to pursue math- and science-based careers.”

The Extreme Classroom Makeover prize package is awarded to Gresham Middle School on behalf of Alvey and includes: a 64” SMART Board with Sanyo XGA LCD projector, laptop, document camera, E-Instruction Classroom Response System with 24 LCD RF Response Pads (or clickers), audio system for audio/speech reinforcement, Sony digital camera and iPod.

As runner-ups in the competition, seventh grade science teacher Sara Greene at Holston Middle School and fifth grade science teacher Jo Ellen Emert at Norris Elementary School, will both be awarded a 64” SMART Board with Sanyo XGA LCD projector and laptop–estimated to be valued at $4,000 each.

McIntyre, who had the pleasure of announcing two winners within the Knox County School system, recognized ORAU as an ally in the promotion of science and math education.

“In Knox County, as in many other school systems, the challenge we are often faced with is how to responsibly balance a tight fiscal budget and still remain true to our academic vision of excellence for all children,” said McIntyre. “This makes us extremely appreciative when community supporters like ORAU contribute in areas where we know there exists a great need. I’m confident that both Gresham and Holston Middle Schools will effectively utilize this instructional technology to enhance student learning and increase student achievement.”

Anderson County Schools Superintendent V.L. Stonecipher, who announced his impending retirement earlier this year, commented that a lot has changed within education over his 43-year career as a teacher, principal and administrator in the Anderson County schools.

“As a former math and science teacher, I have seen how students and learning have changed over the years. Today’s children have shorter attention spans and are used to multi-tasking, and teachers are altering the way they teach,” said Stonecipher. “Jo Ellen is an excellent teacher, and I know she'll find ways to use the technology for observing and documenting the plant life in the wetlands behind the school.”

As part of the grand-prize package, ORAU plans to visit Alvey’s class during each month of the 2009-2010 academic school year to document the her use of the technology, as well as the students’ engagement. Multiple articles and photos will be used to illustrate the journey, and both teacher and students will be able to share their own personal experiences through a specially designed Extreme Classroom Makeover Web site and blog. Currently, the top 10 video entries for the ORAU Extreme Classroom Makover, including the grand-prize winner and two runner-ups, can be viewed online by visiting the Extreme Classroom Makeover videos page.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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