SOUTH KINGSTOWN–Each year, the Rhode Island Society of Technology Educators (RISTE) honors one of their own for outstanding leadership and commitment to transforming education through innovative technology integration. This year, however, a dynamic pair was recognized for their efforts.

South Kingstown Technology Integration Coach Corey Lennon and Network Administrator Ryan Richard were surprised last Thursday night with the honor or receiving the Making It Happen Award for the central role they’ve played in establishing and running the Curtis Corner Middle School Help Desk. 

“This award celebrates something that’s very important,” said RISTE Executive Director John Bilotta. “Those innovators who demonstrate extraordinary commitment, leadership, courage and persistence in providing learning opportunities for students.”

This year, Lennon and Richard have been able to create a help desk course in which students were able to help one another with laptop and tech repairs. So far the students have serviced and repaired more than 500 laptops, according to South Kingstown STEM Director K-12 Chip McGair. 

“When you enter the classroom, it has the feel of an IT department with Corey and Ryan acting as facilitators, and the students actively engaged in the work,” Chip wrote in an email prior to the award ceremony. “What makes this course particularly impressive is that it features middle school students, but you would never know it based on the student maturity and engagement. Because of the success and fun of the course, the students would like to continue their work in the high school, and the demand for the course at the middle school has tripled for next school year.”

“Corey and Ryan see their students as real people,” he continued. “They teach through relationships, inspiration, encouragement and nurturing. They realize that teacher empowerment is the key element to technology integration, and they expect their students to be successful.”

Not only was McGair the one to nominate Lennon and Richard for the award, but he also was the one to approach them with the idea of a help desk in the first place. Both of them have been on board, and have donated additional time to meet with students after school and during lunch periods. 

“It’s been much needed because our IT department is definitely stretched,” McGair said. “What the kids have learned, and eventually where this is going to end is the kids being able to go into classrooms and being able to help teachers.”

“This is something unique and very impressive,” he added. 

Lennon stressed “that the students were the real rock stars in this entire experience,” though. 

“They willingly took direction from Ryan and I, and challenged themselves to problem solve and think creatively,” Lennon said. “When they got into a jam with something they didn’t understand, they would reach out to each other and teach each other and if they didn’t know the solution to a problem, they would tackle it together. When students are treated with respect and given an environment where it’s OK to not know everything, and also not given all the answers or told how to think – magic happens.”

The expertise Richard brought to the class was vital, she said, but rather than lecturing them, he would guide them to “analyze the problem and think about what needed to be done.”

“The beauty of this class is that while we as adults guide and make the big decisions, the daily operations of the class are really run by the students,” Lennon said. “It’s teachers and students working side by side.”

Lennon and Richard join the ranks of several others within RISTE who’ve received the Making It Happen Award for their efforts in working to forward educational opportunities for students through tech. 

RISTE members burst into applause for both Lennon and Richard and past recipients who stood for recognition – recognition teachers deserve by rarely see, according to Bilotta. 

“This internationally recognized program identifies visionaries around the world who cultivate, connect and empower learners at all schools,” he said.

In recognition of their achievements, Lennon and Richard will both receive an exclusive jacket and pin that is only given to fellow award recipients, as well as their award certificate.

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