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Susan M. Bearden

As a former teacher, Bearden views her position as the director of information technology through the lens of servant leadership, where her primary role is to enhance and enable excellence in teaching and learning. “I view IT as a service organization that is providing good customer service to teachers, students and the school community. To that end, I strive very hard,” she says.

This attitude toward technology and student learning led teachers at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy schools to request a 1:1 initiative, which Bearden supported and implemented. Similarly, when the school’s librarian wanted to institute a makerspace program, Bearden delivered the technology and support needed to operate a 3-D printer. She extended this same level of service to ensure the school’s computer science program has what it needs to succeed. Computer science is now part of the curriculum for every student at Holy Trinity, from preschool through high school. Implementing these technologies and programs allows students to participate in once-in-a-lifetime projects. For instance, with the support of the IT staff, Holy Trinity students used the 3-D printer to build a prosthetic hand for a boy in Minnesota with no fingers.

Beyond implementing technology to advance learning opportunities, Bearden is a passionate advocate of digital citizenship, leading Holy Trinity to become the first Common Sense Digital Citizenship certified school in Florida. Bearden takes a multi-pronged approach to teaching digital citizenship, which includes educating students, parents and teachers. “I truly believe it takes a village to raise a true digital citizen,” she says. “It’s been my experience that a lot of the time teachers and parents are no more knowledgeable about digital citizenship than their kids.” To achieve this multi-pronged approach, Holy Trinity uses Common Sense Media’s curriculum to teach digital citizenship to students. Additionally, Bearden hosts a coffee series with parents on a variety of topics such as when to allow students to have a cell phone to dealing with digital drama. She is also working to implement professional development around digital citizenship. “If the teachers are better prepared, they can help our students be better digital citizens,” she says. “So often people view digital citizenship as Internet safety or a cyberbullying program, but it is a very broad topic. Even simple tasks like how to create a password you don’t have to reuse on every single website is important.”

Bearden is most known for her social media work. She moderates two education technology-related Twitter chats each week (#edtechchat and #digcit chat) and even created an app designed to help educators learn about the platform. Bearden sees social media channels as an opportunity to build personal learning networks and stay abreast of technology changes. “Building a personal learning network helps keep you connected with educators and what is happening in the classroom,” she says. “That is something any technology leader can benefit from. I would encourage other technology leaders to become active on Twitter and build personal learning networks.”