“I used to be a boring, traditional teacher,” said Jason Atkinson, a Jurupa instructor known for technological innovation in the classroom.
If so, no longer.
In fact, Mr. Atkinson, a second-grade teacher at Del Sol Academy, for years has dissolved barriers between traditional and high-tech learning. His classrooms feature Sparki robots, Skype calls, Keva planks, a Lego wall connected by QR code to an Internet showcase site, and much more – all to support learning without limits.
That’s why the longtime instructor has received a Sharp Ideas Award from Culver-Newlin, a Corona-based company that sells school and office furniture. The honor, which includes a $500 furniture grant, was conferred this month at an awards celebration at the Disneyland Hotel.
“There are so many great things happening at Del Sol that I was beyond flattered at receiving news of the Sharp Ideas award,” said Mr. Atkinson.
“My second-graders have narrowed all of their ideas (for spending the grant) down to either an upholstered bench with under-seat storage and a whiteboard on the back as a reading nook, or a set of foam-cushioned seats for small-group collaboration,” he added.
Mr. Atkinson was one of seven local educators to earn the award in its inaugural year. According to a commemorative poster, “He challenges his students to build and create while he acts as a guide, leading students to find what they are passionate about.”
The teacher saw his own passion kindled in 2015 at the Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference, where he observed how other teachers were using technology in the classroom.
“I felt reinvigorated and inspired and I thought, ‘We can do those things!’” he said.
And they did.
At the next year’s CUE conference, Mr. Atkinson’s students were among the presenters – and it was their turn to inspire others.
The second-graders, who also shared their creations at the Technology Leaders Network (TLN) meeting, wrote code and directed Sparki robots to write messages and draw geometric shapes.
“The pride on their (and their parents’) faces, while they taught the particular project to adults, was something I’ll never forget,” Mr. Atkinson said.
The following year, his students had similar experiences at CUE and TLN while drawing electrical circuits with special silver ink pens.
“Mr. Atkinson is a student-centered teacher who fosters learning through a variety of strategies, including discovery and experimentation,” said Del Sol Principal Maureen Stevens.
“He produces students who feel valued and empowered.”