Instructional coach Dawn Martesi and eighth grader Chelsie McClease of Neil A. Armstrong Middle School in Bristol Township School District were highlighted in a Verizon TV spot this spring. Armstrong, along with Franklin D. Roosevelt Middle School, also in Bristol Township, are two of only four economically disadvantaged schools in the state to obtain grants that level the technology playing field. The results have been spectacular over the past four years since Dawn first applied to Verizon and their partner, Digital Promise.
Armstrong has since become a Verizon Innovative Learning School and the program has provided accessibility of one-to-one devices as well as data plans at home. Dawn says that the school’s participation “has been the catalyst of change that has catapulted us into another whole dimension.”
While the grants have provided access to a variety of different programs, including a designer maker lab, perhaps most remarkable is the impact of the program on the school and its students. This has included the creation of Tiger Techs, Armstrong’s in-house IT program that enables the specially-trained students to support not only their peers, but their teachers as well, with all their IT issues.
Dawn says, “The kids own the program and are the cornerstone.” They manage all the school’s IT functions including bell schedules and troubleshooting. While in many programs, girls may not be naturally attracted to math and science because of the way that the education is delivered, the Tiger Tech program is now predominantly female. Dawn works to show them a “hands-on helping approach and builds on their natural abilities” and desire to help people, all the while developing skills and confidence in STEM and tech fields. The program also helps to foster leadership, communication, collaboration and critical thinking/problem solving abilities, along with the capacity to work with others as Dawn stresses the need for empathy and listening in their approach.
She ensures that all the Tiger Techs are exposed to female and male role models who have math and science careers such as engineering or chemistry, and the result has been an increase in the number of students who express interest in a STEM career such as engineering or medicine.
The Verizon TV spot was filmed by the socially-conscious Rory Kennedy, the daughter of US Senator Robert Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy. Dawn said, “She was absolutely an amazing person to meet in person and truly exuded the qualities of a great humanitarian. I consider getting the opportunity to meet and work with her as one of the highlights of my year!”
Dawn is one more example of a teacher who does what it takes to create incredible opportunities for her students. We are proud of her, the students, and the school and can’t wait to see where she takes them next!