With iInspire Digital Learning Project, Vance County Schools brings innovation to classrooms

District makes major professional development commitment to ensure student success

Dr. Anthony D. Jackson, superintendent of Vance County Schools (VCS), wants 90% of his teachers to be effective in using technical instructional practices by the year 2020 to encourage more problem-based learning. To implement the 2020 Vision, VCS has launched the iInspire Digital Learning Project supported by a $200,000 Golden LEAF grant.

Golden LEAF Vice President Mark Sorrells presents VCS Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson with a ceremonial $200,000 check on January 30, 2017. Participating in the presentation were 50 of thel ocal educators who are leading the iInspire technology project.

“The iInspire Digital Learning Project represents a new direction for instructional delivery and academic outcomes for students in the Vance County School System,” said Jackson. “Our goals, aligned with the district’s mission, are to prepare every student to be competitive, contributing global citizens. iInspire will systematically and intentionally embed the technical and essential soft skills into our instructional programs to ensure student readiness for the local, regional and global workforce.”

The school system started with a strategic planning process that focused on “why” before deciding to integrate technology into instructional practice.

Grant funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation is being used to support professional development for teachers, purchase training supplies, and cover the costs of substitute teachers for teachers participating in professional training. N.C. State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is providing the professional development.

Kristian Herring, Zeb Vance Elementary School principal, has his own reasons for wanting to transition to technology-rich instruction. Herring was a graduate of a rural school system in North Carolina prior to attending a prestigious NC university. He remembers his struggle to catch up with his peers. He has made it his personal mission that Zeb Vance Elementary students “will never have to experience being left behind.”

As part of the strategic planning process, VCS initiated an intensive professional development plan of digital emersion for all staff prior to deploying technology into the schools.

“Technology will not replace teachers,” said Jackson. “The only thing that can replace a good teacher is a better teacher.”

The staff at VCS are learning best practices in digital learning and developing a plan to guide implementation to improve student success.

“In classrooms that embrace blended learning, students are empowered to take on leadership and ownership of their learning,” said Edward Ortega, an ESL teacher at Aycock Elementary School. “This is not a new trend in education; this is the way it is going to be in the schools and in the workplace.”

The goal of iInspire is to train approximately 500 teachers in grades k-12, instructional support staff, and school-based administrators in student-centered, technology-rich instructional practice.

“We are working on changing our ecosystem,” said Cindy Bennet, assistant superintendent of student services and strategic planning. “After completing a needs assessment of VCS, we are not where we want to be, yet, if we are to do what is right and best for our students. This is about the education and training needed to impact our schools and our community success.”

VCS’s journey in integrating digital technology is not going unnoticed. Dr. Jackson is a recipient of the 2017 Friday Medal awarded by the Friday Institute. Dr. Jackson is being honored for his commitment and leadership in using technological innovations in public school classrooms. The Friday Medal recognizes individuals for their significant, distinguished and enduring contributions to education through advocating innovation, advancing education and imparting inspiration.


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