By Kathy Mansfield

Heidi Neltner, teacher librarian for Johnson Elementary (Fort Thomas Independent Schools), is the 2016 winner of the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education’s (KySTE) Outstanding Teacher Award.

“When I found out I was the recipient of the KySTE award I was shocked,” said Neltner. “I had no idea I was nominated. It is a huge honor to have been even nominated for such an award by people with whom I absolutely love to work.”

Heidi Neltner

Heidi Neltner

Johnson has been a teacher librarian for six years; this is her fourth year at Johnson Elementary. Her Learning in Progress blog provides insight into her journey as a librarian at the school, as well as offers helpful tips for the school’s staff and students about technology and library resources.

Neltner is a frequent presenter at regional, state and national conferences. As co-creator of #KyLChat, the bimonthly Twitter chat for Kentucky school librarians, and frequent moderator of #KyEdChat, she is at the forefront of conversations focused on effective education. Neltner is also part of a group leading the #KyGoPlay initiative – which focuses on learning through play  – and celebrated its second year with a #KyGoPlayground at the annual KySTE Conference in Louisville.

Perhaps the best way to know Neltner better is to hear about her from school colleagues and fellow librarians. The following are excerpts from nomination letters written on behalf of the award winner.

From the 2016 KySTE affiliate nomination statement:
“Heidi is an exemplary teacher who implements technology organically on an hourly basis. In one class, students may have an iPad in their hands researching digital citizenship. The next class may be exploring augmented reality by creating poetry videos about Kentucky historians and turning the presentation into an aura using the Aurasma app. The creative and innovative resources and strategies Heidi uses in her classroom daily far surpass anything I’ve experienced at other schools.

“Heidi does a phenomenal job of putting technology in our students’ hands each and every day. They are leaning toward technology for learning, not just for fun. More importantly, she is assisting our teachers so they feel more comfortable incorporating these types of opportunities in their lessons consistently as well. This is having a huge impact on student engagement throughout our school, which research shows is a huge factor in student achievement.”

Fort Thomas teachers:
“Heidi has been a trusted and valuable colleague whom I can turn to for advice about incorporating technology into my own classroom. I have attended her informal TechChats at a local coffee shop, which have included technology-minded teachers of all grade levels from all over Northern Kentucky. She puts a great deal of time and effort into cultivating and maintaining professional relationships and has become a great resource for the teacher community here. Heidi works tirelessly to assist me in anything I might need and is an expert in finding the newest apps and programs. Her dedication makes for a richer and more engaging environment in my classroom and the classrooms of countless other people.

“Heidi Neltner is the epitome of what every school wants their media specialist to be. She brings technology to the forefront of education at Johnson Elementary. She works tirelessly to provide experiences for the kids and the faculty. From Power Lunches and her Technology Tuesday newsletter for the staff to her makerspace, Coding Clubs, and Journalism Club for the kids – and those are just the beginning of everything she does for our school and community.”

Johnson Elementary School principal, Jamee Flaherty:
“Heidi continuously surprises me with her innovative ideas and her approach to providing students with problem-based learning experiences.”

A fellow KySTE member and Kentucky school librarian:
“It takes a special patience and dedication to the practice of education to be able to jump nimbly from topic to topic the way Heidi is capable of. Part of the complexity of being an outstanding teacher librarian is the constant requirement to be ready. This readiness is not on a single subject, device or audience, but on a vast array of topics including literature, educational technology and information literacy.”

Read about Heidi Neltner’s journey as a teacher librarian on her blog, Learning in Progress, and learn about the Johnson Elementary library media program on the school’s library media website.