When Megan Brady discovered she had been named a recipient of the Battelle for Kids 2017 Distinguished Educator Award, she was more than surprised.
She was perplexed.
"I work in a district with so many gifted educators; my thought, really, was 'why me?' " Brady said.
Brady, the Grandview Heights City School District's 21st-century learning coach and technology-integration specialist, was among 33 teachers from across Ohio to receive the 2017 Celebrate Teaching Distinguished Educator Award.
The award, which recognizes educators for their impact on students, colleagues and their communities, was presented last month at the Educators Connect for Success conference in Columbus.
"The honor isn't just for me," Brady said. "It is also for the teachers I work with. I can work with them on an idea, but they are the ones who are in their classroom day in and day out and who really carry it forward."
In her position, Brady works with teachers to devise and implement innovative learning opportunities for students.
She just completed her fifth year in Grandview. Before coming to Grandview, Brady worked eight years as both a teacher and vice principal at a charter school in Cleveland.
"Originally, my job title was just 'technology integration specialist,' but teachers and students have become so proficient in technology," Brady said. "It's no longer necessary to just guide them how to use technology, but how to use it more effectively."
The "21st-century learning" aspect of her role reflects not just an emphasis on technology, but on giving students the skills they will need to find success in a global environment, she said.
"We're looking to instill things like perseverance, grit, communication, collaboration and creativity in our students," Brady said.
Most often, Brady will collaborate with a team of teachers or an individual teacher to develop a project for the classroom, then work alongside her colleagues with students in implementing the lesson.
"It's fun for me because I get to work with both teachers and students," she said. "I always concentrated on the middle school, but this year we changed things so was working with teachers and students at all grade levels. I really enjoyed that variety."
In one project, second-grade students addressed the problems facing children and their families who have a sibling in the hospital.
The students interviewed representatives from Nationwide Children's Hospital to find out what the hospital, its patients and families need, Brady said.
"We solicited donations of items like books, rattles and teethers and we held a family fun night and did other fundraisers to collect about $1,000 that we donated to the hospital," she said.
The project was designed to help teach empathy in students, Brady said.
"We wanted them to be able to put themselves in the shoes of someone who had a family member in the hospital and think about the issues they have to deal with," she said.
Sixth-grade students participated in a project in which they formed travel agencies and interviewed Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School staff members about their families' dream vacations.
The students went online to research travel destinations and created proposed travel packages.
"Two travel agencies would come up with travel plans for one of the people interviewed, and they picked the package they liked best, so there was an element of competition," Brady said.
The students interviewed custodians, lunchroom employees and other staff members "who they don't often come in contact with," she said. "It was a way to help build a stronger school community."
Brady "is so well-deserving of this honor," Chief Academic Officer Jamie Lusher said. "Megan is just exceptional at every aspect of her professional work. Everything she does is in the best interest of both students and staff."
In particular, Brady excels in her ability to collaborate with other teachers, she said.
"She is so genial and assuring," Lusher said. "Her support encourages our teachers to try out new ideas in the classroom."
That said, Grandview teachers don't need much coaxing to try new strategies, Brady said.
"They come up with an idea, then really run with it," she said. "Grandview is like Pleasantville to me. Everybody wants what's best for the students. Our teachers are exceptional and are so excited about trying new things."