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Awarded for Innovation

Teacher receives statewide SKIE award 

Awarded for Innovation

From left to right: Stacy Howeth/OAEC, David Morgan/K20 Board of Advocates, Elizabeth Rader/Greenwood Elementary, and Michale Gentry/SKIE committee member. Courtesy photo

Elizabeth Rader enables her students to be ambassadors of their own futures, giving them the innovative tools to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. The third grade teacher at Greenwood Elementary in Tahlequah was named the statewide 2019 SKIE Awardee at the K20 Center’s Innovative Learning Institute. 

Rader said she was encouraged by her peers to apply for the SKIE award this year. 

“It’s difficult to be self-promoting as a teacher. We do what we do for the kids, not ourselves. But I was reminded by others that the award is really about promoting education, being an ambassador for innovation, and empowering students by getting them ready for 21st century jobs. Having others believe in me, regardless of winning, was rewarding.”

The annual award, made possible by a $90,000 endowment from Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives, recognizes teachers or groups of educators from six regions across the state who use technology to transform their classroom instruction. Rader received a $500 cash award for being the Northwest Region winner, then was honored with an additional $1,500 prize for taking home the statewide award. Greenwood Elementary also received a $1,000 award as the sponsoring school. 

When asked about the classroom techniques that garnered her recognition, Rader replied, “I honestly didn’t realize I was innovating most of the time. I learn better hands-on, and I know my students do as well. When I see something cool or fun, I say, ‘Let’s try this! Why not?’” 

Rader isn’t afraid to break the mold. When students were learning about outer space, she knew they couldn’t afford to visit the Johnson Space Center, so she designed a virtual “space camp” for her classroom and now curates a week each year that is filled with hands-on learning activities and reading about our solar system. 

“I believe that every student who walks through my door has genius to share with the world, no matter their background or abilities,” Rader said. 

In her seven years of teaching, Rader has witnessed a direct connection between the integration of technology in the classroom and success on test scores. 

“It’s exciting to see the ripples of change away from just pencil and paper,” she said. “Taking a test is a puzzle, but when kids can think critically, they don’t have to memorize. With rural districts especially, students often don’t have a lot of prior knowledge outside of their world. They may have never been to a zoo, for example. But by using technology like virtual tours, I can take them there and give them that frame of reference to activate their interest and spark future learning.” 

Rader is grateful to Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives and the K20 Center for their support. 

“I’ve received a lot of support and direction from K20 through professional development. It’s helped me build the toolkit to bring innovation to my classroom. We’ve seen the positive impact that grants and support like this have had in our school and our kids”

“Elizabeth exhibits the commitment to students and innovative learning that the K20 Center and Oklahoma’s electric co-ops hope to honor and encourage with this award,” said Sharon Dean, associate director of leadership at the K20 Center. 

Located on the University of Oklahoma Research Campus, the K20 Center is a statewide education research and development center which promotes innovative learning through school-university-community collaboration. 

Rader said the receiving the SKIE Award will allow her to further her mission of preparing kids for bright futures. “It’s a real validation of the process. It shines a light on innovative teaching and in a way gives us permission to go forward.”