Goodbye North Shore

At the Upper School closing on Tuesday, Colan Biemer noted in his farewell to me that I have been at North Shore longer than he has been alive. My association with the school began in the spring of 1993 and became permanent later in the year. Like the seniors who have been searching for the right college in which to continue their journey, I too have spent much of the year looking for the next opportunity or adventure to embark on. After a wide search and exploring a wide variety of challenges, I am pleased to announce that this fall I will become the first Educational Technology Coordinator at the Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois. I am looking forward to helping Quest redefine the ways that teaching and learning can be enhanced and transformed by technology for their gifted community.

As math teacher Vanessa Molzahn shared in our Upper School faculty meeting yesterday, when I arrived at North Shore, there were six Macintosh computers (Mac SE’s with a 20 MB hard drive and 7” black and white screen) and a number of scattered Apple IIe and Apple IIgs computers. No network. No Internet. No email.

With the suport of Heads of School Julie Hall and Tom Doar, Upper School Heads Paul Perkinson, Bob Ryshke, and Dave Potter, Middle School Heads Todd Nelson, Joe Coulson, Mary Pat Hepp, and La Vina Lowery, Lower School Head Pam Whalley, Assistant Head of School Chris Boyle, and Business Managers Bob Beerheide, Maureen Toomey, Julie Schmidt and Sue Downing, I have been able to grow the technology program at North Shore.

Crucial to this process has been the willingness and support of all of you faculty who have allowed me to partner and collaborate in so many ways. You were open to listen to my new ideas and willing to try novel approaches (at the time) when we weren’t quite sure of the outcome. What we have done throughout the years is to collaborate in its truest sense. You have pushed me, I have pushed you and because of that interaction, we have achieved heights that we did not know we could accomplish. It has always been a true collaboration, an equal partnership. This is the new essence of being a teacher in the 21st century, forging new connections together to share and grow. Listed below are a number of the projects and activities that I am proud that we have created together.

Working with me to help create this vision were the educational technologists Allan Stern, Becky Veitzen, Betty Piepho. In the mid-2000’s, I helped shape the new position of Library/Tech integrationist and have had the priviledge of working with Jen Lindsay and Lane Young in this position. I have been aided by an outstanding group of librarians and assistants, Leslie Trainer, Betsy Gray, Nancy Figel, Sharon Minnoch, Beth West, Gail Shipley, Roe Salzinski, Caroline Rooney, and Amy Koegel. Helping with some of the administrative technology support has been Jeannie Kelso and Laura Heidleberger.

To support the computers and the network to help make the magic happen were Patrick Montag, Lori Brennan, and Mike Peccia. Working with Lori and especially Mike over the years and having the opportunity to talk to many schools, I can honestly say that North Shore’s IT department is hands down the most student-centered, hard working, and supportive team anywhere. Period.

I have had the opportunity to dream, create, and build a technology platform that I can take pride in. I have created something special for a school who has helped me grow and become the person, both professionally as a teacher and personally, including as a parent, today. I have grown from someone with ideas and a vision to become a complete educator and master teacher.

In this world of instant connections and networks, there are many ways we will be able to stay connected. Whether we run into each other at conferences, connecting via email, chatting on various social networks, through this blog, , or through a webcast I co-host, 21st Century Learning , I look forward to continuing to connecting and sharing with you as I move to my new position.

I wish each of you the best of luck in your future endeavors and journeys. Emily, Emily, Katie, and Lane, I wish you the best of luck with the exciting new changes that you are planning, including moving back to Macbooks, adding the iPads, and the switch to Haiku. May you duplicate the great successes I have been able to experience at North Shore.


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Some, but not all of the highlights that I take extreme pride in include:

  • Providing laptops for all teachers beginning in 1996
  • Constructing a collaborative, blended electronic learning environments to support teachers and students, first with Moodle and later the with addition of Google Apps and identifying Haiku as direction the school should transition to
  • Creating and open computing environment for students, putting the onus on them to raise to themselves to high standards of behaviour, rather than restricting them access
  • Being an Upper School advisor with a great number of students
  • Being able to partner to transform both curriculum and pedagogy in all three divisions. The work that teachers do at North Shore is exemplary and is the result of our partnerships. We  have created an environment where technology is integral, not integrated into teaching and learning
  • My role in co-founding and leading the Science Olympiad program with my best friend, Lee Block. We created a model for invitational competitions which has been replicated across the state, which we  are often told that our tournament is often the best of the year. We have built an excellent program with high expectations and have inspired several generations of students to pursue opportunities in engineering and science.
  • The opportunity to explore new ideas through my  interim week offerings – whether it was comics and graphic novels, student documentaries, creating a virtual model of campus in 1994 with rudimentary tools (before Google Sketchup, it would be so easy to do today), to this year’s on Design Thinking.
  • Creating projects before their time, including a web-based Hot Chocolate House with David Green with maps, etc that again would be a piece of cake with today’s blogging platforms. In 1995, Kevin Randolph and I also tried to create a platform to allow for student collaboration where students broke the research into smaller pieces and then shared their results, using the model now used by Wikipedia. This project, and specifically one student’s page on Martin Van Buren was the best Internet web site and was used by a number of other schools as the basis for their content and by their students used between 1996-2004 (when Wikipedia took over)
  • Created the first school web with a student, and mailing lists in 1995 and maintained it the current fourth generation platform was used
  • Assisted with the migrated the Admissions Office (FileMaker database), Registrar functions (MacSchool), and Business Office (old home-built system) into the Blackbaud family of products in 1998 – 2003.
  • A willingness to help in other areas as needed, to support students, including stepping in at the last minute in the Spring Musical for the Saturday performance of West Side Story in the role of Officer Krupke, being coached by Frank Dachille, John Foley, and two students, or helping athletic director Patrick McHugh by  working on the chain crew or more recently, running the clock for the football team.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye North Shore

  1. Thanks for the honorable mention, Vinnie. It was definitely an interesting journey. I wasn’t around for the dark ages that Vanessa describes, but I do remember an old smoking mac desktop. North Shore has come a long way from those days. Good luck in your new adventure at Quest and congrats to Colin Biemer! Definitely the end of an era. Lori

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