Dyane Smokorowski named Kansas Teacher of the Year
November 17, 2012
Andover Middle School eighth grade language arts teacher Dyane Smokorowski was named Kansas Teacher of the Year in a ceremony at the Wichita Marriott on November 17. Congratulations, Mrs. Smoke!
Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Diane DeBacker made this announcement before a gathering of more than 400 education officials, corporate leaders and state policy makers.
"It is truly a pleasure to present this award to Dyane Smokorowski," Commissioner DeBacker said. "When Dyane talks about teaching, her entire face lights up. She gets carried away with her enthusiasm for her profession and for her students, and it is impossible not to be carried away with her. I am grateful to have teachers like Dyane in Kansas."
Smokorowski was selected from a field of eight finalists. Throughout the coming year all the finalists will work as a team to advocate for education and teaching.
"Mrs. Smoke," as her students call her, has been with the Andover school district for five years, serving first as an instructional technology coach and technology professional development instructor for the district, and as an eighth grade language arts teacher for the past four years. Her class also encompasses digital citizenship, helping students understand how to use the Internet safely and appropriately.
In addition to her teaching duties, Smokorowski works with other teachers across Kansas and the nation to help them use technology in a manner that enhances instruction. She serves as an instructional technology trainer, providing professional development for the Andover school district, and throughout the state training preK-12 teachers on 21st Century Skills, project-based learning and technology tools. In addition, she is an Intel National Senior Trainer, training other teachers around the nation in project-based learning strategies with enhanced technology integration, and co-hosts monthly online professional development trainings focused on effective technology integration and 21st Century Skills for PreK-12 educators for the Intel Teach Live International Monthly Webinar series.
In a letter of nomination, Smokorowski's former principal, Brett White, describes Mrs. Smoke as an outstanding teacher who is a model for other teachers to emulate. White said Smokorowski has special talents that allow her to make an impact beyond her classroom to benefit the school and district.
"She has a heart to teach and empower other educators along with her students," he said. "She is extraordinary in every sense of the word."
As a teacher, Smokorowski said she believes in a project-based, student-centered classroom that helps students build skills in communications, planning, research and project implementation. She wants her students to develop a love for literature, communication and technology, but also to understand how to use that love and passion to advance their own future, as well as that of their community.
"I want (my students) to understand how sharing a perspective through imagery, strong verbs and persuasive techniques can change opinions, so they can communicate with authentic audiences such as CEOs of major companies, and speak publicly," she said. "My desire for them to break down the classroom walls and discover that each of them has a voice and a perspective to make a positive impact is demonstrated in every project."
One such project developed as Smokorowski's students were reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. While reading the novel, students were asked to research current events on piracy, which led to a discussion on digital piracy, plagiarism and copyright. The discussion led to a 10-week research project during which students arranged Skype calls with more than 16 different experts on intellectual property ranging from FBI cyber crime agents to the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. Ultimately, the students launched a website they wrote and designed themselves that helps teens understand how to be ethically responsible with intellectual property.
"Through this experience and others like it, I have successfully connected my small town Kansas students to classrooms on all seven continents and with more than 30 experts in areas ranging from the entertainment industry to the American Revolution," Smokorowski said. "It has certainly been a joyous ride, and without question, I know these personal experiences have shaped my students to discover their own passion and dreams."