Proud to be MACS: January 2022

Below are the remarks presented at the January monthly Board of Education Business Meeting by President James Emery.

“Begin with the end in mind” is one of the seven habits from Stephen Covey’s “Leader in Me” character education initiative that the District utilizes for our younger students. To paraphrase, the habit involves planning, setting goals, doing things that have meaning and make a difference, and contributing to the school’s mission and vision. I think this habit perfectly describes the value of tonight’s Proud to be MACS recipient Nancy Kather, Instructional Support Services and Itinerant Computer Education Specialist from CiTi BOCES.

Nancy grew up in a military family as her dad was a corpsman with the US Navy. As a result the family moved frequently.  Nancy would graduate from Tully High School.

Following graduation, Nancy would earn a Bachelor and Masters in Fine Arts Education from Syracuse University. To assist with  financing this education, Nancy  joined the military, though she chose the US Army reserves and not the US Navy.

Nancy began her teaching career in grades 4-12 with the DeRuyter Central School District before moving to the Carthage Central School District to instruct at grades 9-12.

After five years, Nancy returned to Central New York to open an art gallery and picture frame business in Skaneateles. Additionally, Nancy substituted at her alma mater, Tully. This led to a part time position in their computer lab.  She would expand her role to assist students and teachers in using technology.

Eventually, Nancy was offered a full time position as a teaching assistant in 1992, which she did for five years.

It was during this time that Nancy made the decision that teaching was truly her passion, so she separated from her Skaneateles shop and took a position at the Central New York Regional Information Center.

While at the RIC, her progression went from teaching to Professional Development, and she obtained her degree in Administration from SUNY Cortland.

During this time, Nancy was approached by the Cazenovia Central School District to develop elective courses for their art and technology students; this challenge provided her with the opportunity to merge these two areas as well as employ Project Based Learning and Blended Learning in her instruction. She strongly believed that Project Based Learning, that is, a demonstration of knowledge via projects, was as important in determining a student’s knowledge as was the standard testing or assessments.

Subsequent to earning her Administration Degree, Nancy joined CiTi BOCES in 2007 with our District being one of the Districts that she served.

She continued with her Project Based Learning initiatives but transitioned to the Blended Learning model.

In chatting with Nancy, I found several of her philosophies very interesting.

One philosophy was her belief that technology is a tool to assist in instruction and learning.  She does not necessarily believe technology is the only answer.  For instance, if a lesson plan is awesome without technology, then do not use it.

Another philosophy is her belief that projects done by hand are as important for assessing knowledge as are written tests.  As an example, she recounted one of her high school classmates  who went on to a career using his hands and would earn significantly more than she even after obtaining her Bachelors, Masters, and Administrative Degrees.

Finally, I enjoyed hearing her philosophy about offering options that are best for kids, that is, offer a variety of learning modes and a variety of modes for expressing this learning.

I would be remiss without personally thanking Nancy for her efforts on behalf of our District. You see, I served with her for many years on our District Technology Committee, and I always appreciated her passion and her ability to simplify technology and its many benefits when she would report at our committee meetings. Like former Director of Technology, Steve Roux, Nancy did not believe technology’s value was how many gadgets and graphics the District purchased but rather how it could be incorporated in the right applications by trained personnel to improve student learning and achievement.

So, how has all of this experience and philosophy benefited the students and staff of MACS?

Nominator Diane Bush writes, “Nancy has been a cornerstone for our success at MACS, both on a daily problem-solving basis and in the quest to stay abreast of advances in technology. She has provided constant assistance, training, and support for all our technology needs throughout District, but especially at the high school. It was Nancy who helped prepare the staff way ahead of COVID:  without her training on Schoology and Blended Learning we surely would have had much more difficulty transitioning to remote and hybrid learning. She provided a stable foundation long before it was needed.”

Diane further writes, “Nancy was the one who kicked off our long-standing training when we started so long ago with our original SmartBoards. Since then, she has been an invaluable trainer and promoter of educational technology and software programs.

Although we share her with another district, Nancy goes out of her way to problem solve and communicate even on days when she is not in our district, outside the school day, and even during precious evening hours.  No matter what your question or issue, Nancy will work to answer it or solve it. In terms of teaching, Nancy makes every new software program comprehensible and easy to operate and learn. Her patience knows no limits.  She is an excellent instructor and communicator and is always eager to find programs, ideas, and strategies to make our jobs easier and learning more fun and engaging for the students.”

As for her favorite part of working with our District, Nancy is very proud of the success of our Blended Learning Program and has greatly enjoyed working with our staff, who she gave glowing compliments for their willingness to try different options to encourage our students.

Nancy’s favorite memory involves an example of student led or driven education. The example involved students creating, designing, and developing a game. By playing this game, the students learned content and demonstrated their knowledge of this content. The students were excited about learning which, in Nancy’s opinion, should be education’s goal or, in other words, “the end in mind.”

I will conclude with more praise from nominator Diane Bush as she writes, “I can think of many contributions of this individual to MACS to advance our mission and vision; most recently, however, was over the last summer months, into the new school year, and throughout COVID. Nancy has put forth a tremendous amount of extra time and effort to ensure that teachers have the training needed to be able to implement remote and hybrid learning....She continues to be available to help with all our technical questions and to provide solutions to our technological problems. Most certainly we would have floundered throughout this difficult year without Nancy’s dedication and knowledge. In essence, Nancy is crucial to our success and has been since at least 2007.”

As it turns out, this recognition tonight comes at an appropriate time as Nancy plans to retire at the end of this school year. Being a hands on person and a life long learner, Nancy plans to stay busy by finishing the renovation of her home and taking courses in etching, metal smithing, print making, and the language of Latin.

So Nancy, for being an excellent example of one who begins with the end in mind, for your efforts in assisting our staff with technology and the Blended Learning program, for recognizing technology as a tool (but not the only tool) for enhanced learning, for your belief in Project Based Learning and Assessment, but, most importantly, for always doing what is best for our students and offering options to make their education exciting, it is with great appreciation that we, the Board, recognize you as our Proud to be MACS recipient for January 2022.