Waving the Magic Wand of Tech Innovation at an Atlanta Middle School

An educator shares what she learns through professional development courses to help teachers incorporate tech throughout the curriculum
Dec 13, 2022 9:00 AM ET

Renee Dawson’s colleagues describe her as a game changer, an expert and a rockstar for the work she does as Verizon Innovative Learning School coach at Long Middle School in Atlanta, GA.

And Dawson? She says she gets to play the role of “tech fairy godmother,” helping teachers incorporate technology into their curricula. “I get to wave my magic technology wand and help them do things that they weren't able to do before,” she says.

What Long Middle School teachers are doing now, with Dawson’s help, is adding tech to their teaching in innovative ways, as well as taking advantage of free learning apps and lesson plans available on Verizon Innovative Learning HQ. “Because [lessons] come with the apps, they’re so engaging,” she says. “And they’re so different from what we usually see in the classroom with science or social studies or any other subject. It really helps our students engage and get to that creative mode, that depth of knowledge.”

Her colleagues say that Dawson’s influence—or is it magic?—is transformative. “She makes both teaching and learning come alive,” says Lisa Hill, principal of Long Middle School.

“Miss Dawson helped me incorporate technology—she gave me a lot of resources,” says Paul Hopson, a special education teacher at the school. “She’s coming with her passion and makes you want to learn from her.”

It’s that passion for continuous learning that motivated Dawson to complete eight micro-credentials in one year, thanks to online offerings through Digital Promise and Verizon Innovative Learning HQ. Micro-credentials are digital certifications that verify an individual’s competence in a specific skill or set of skills. These free professional development courses can then be applied in some states as continuing education credits (CECs) or units (CEUs), which are required to renew teaching licenses. “I find that the best teachers I’ve worked with, the best leaders I’ve worked with, never stopped learning and growing,” she says. “And that is crucial to me as I go through my career—to never stop.”

True to her style, Dawson incorporates all that she learns into her work as a coach. From one professional development course on Verizon Innovative Learning HQ, for example, she learned about leading through coaching. “Once I took that microcredential, I was able to infuse that into my professional development for my teachers,” Dawson says.

Her colleagues have taken note. “We now have a new way of teaching and learning because of Miss Dawson,” says Hill.

To access free learning apps, lesson plans and professional development courses aligned to micro-credentials, visit Verizon Innovative Learning HQ at www.verizon.com/learning.

“I get to wave my magic technology wand and help them do things that they weren't able to do before.”

Renee Dawson, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools coach at Long Middle School