By Matt de Simone
Last month, BCPS Instructional Technology Resource Teacher Leah Stephenson was announced as Botetourt County Schools’ Educator of the Month for April. For 18 years, Stephenson continues to assist teachers in learning new technology. She and the technology department use technology to connect with students making their learning experience more engaging and effective.
Stephenson is a product of the Botetourt County school system. “I grew up in Botetourt and attended Troutville, Breckinridge, CAMS, and James River High School,” she explained. “I have a Master’s degree in Library Science from UNC-Chapel Hill, and I have an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Virginia Tech.”
She began educating in Botetourt as a librarian after working for the public library in Bedford County. A few years after becoming a librarian, Stephenson became a tech resource teacher for the county.
After the final nine weeks of the 2019-20 school year, Botetourt County students didn’t race out of the front doors toward their summer of fun. Everyone spent their last semester at home amid a nationwide lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic may have kept students from their teachers, bookbags, and lockers but Stephenson and the tech department made sure the teachers and students were only a click away from one another. The end of the semester was bittersweet.
“I know that I can speak for all teachers and staff when I say that we miss our students more than we can express,” said Stephenson. “I have heard this without exception from every teacher and staff member that I have helped. That is the biggest negative. The technology team has been very busy during this time, helping teachers, and troubleshooting problems with hardware and software. However, there is nothing better than being able to help someone find a solution to their problem. That is one of the reasons why I love my job. Teachers are using this time as an opportunity for growth in their use of technology and reaching out to the technology team when they need extra help. I am proud of how hard our teachers are working to keep the students engaged. They are doing a fantastic job of using digital and non-digital resources to communicate with students and parents. This week I attended several videoconferences between teachers and students that included unique moments: a pet show and tell, making a unique Mother’s Day card, and a heartfelt expression from a student about just how much he missed seeing everyone in person.”
While the there’s still many questions about the future, educators like Stephenson look forward to educating-as-usual in the upcoming school year.