Kurzweil Educational Systems Names Winners of Kurzweil 3000 Software Awards

BEDFORD, Mass. - Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. named the winners of its second annual Kurzweil Educational Systems Kurzweil 3000 Software Awards. These awards are designed to honor students with learning disabilities (LD) who achieve academic success despite the challenges they face, as well as teachers and schools committed to helping students with learning disabilities reach their full potential. This year, Kurzweil Educational Systems also introduced a new award, Innovator of the Year, for educators currently using Kurzweil 3000 in innovative or unique ways.

The company will also be presenting its third annual Kurzweil 3000 Software Award to the winner of the National Center for Learning Disabilities' (NCLD) Bill Ellis Teacher Preparation Award.  Winners of all awards receive complimentary license(s) of Kurzweil 3000, reading, writing and learning software for struggling students.

The following Kurzweil 3000 Software Award winners were chosen from many applicants in each category:

Winner of the Kurzweil 3000 Innovator of the Year Award is Cheryl Thompson, a speech and language pathologist at Plum Point Middle School in Huntington, Md. In addition to using Kurzweil 3000 for reading and writing, Thompson uses Kurzweil 3000 to enhance listening skills and determine optimal listening environments for individual students. She also teaches students how to apply strategies learned using Kurzweil 3000 to situations where Kurzweil 3000 is not available, for example when a teacher gives directions verbally. Her students have discovered how much control they can have over their own learning and how to use listening strategies independently. In addition, students' attitudes have improved and they have learned how to transfer listening strategies to their regular education classrooms. Thompson has become a district resource person to teach other educators how to use Kurzweil 3000 and was featured in a video on assistive technology produced by the Calvert County School District.

Winners of the Scholastic Excellence Award are Zachary Koch and Kevin Doherty. This award honors two high school seniors or full-time community college students with identified learning disabilities who maintain an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher and who are pursuing undergraduate degrees. Koch was identified and diagnosed with dyslexia/dysgraphia in the third grade. He graduated in June 2005 with a 3.5 GPA from Calvert Hall College High School in Maryland. At Calvert Hall, which provides specific services for college bound learning disabled students, he was awarded the St. Yon Award given to the senior who best exemplifies the qualities of integrity, perseverance, and personal growth. He is currently a freshman at McDaniel College in Maryland. Doherty graduated from Northeast Metro Tech Vocational High School in Wakefield, Mass. in 2003 and is currently enrolled at Middlesex Community College (MCC) in Bedford, Mass. where he maintains a 3.4 GPA. He plans to attend the University of Massachusetts Lowell after graduating from MCC in June 2006. Doherty was introduced to Kurzweil 3000 at MCC and became so proficient that he was hired to work in the Disabilities Services Lab as an aide helping other students. Also, because he did not want other students to struggle as he did in school, he went back to his high school and not only encouraged them to purchase Kurzweil 3000, but offered to train teachers, parents, and students on how to use the program. 

Winner of the School Excellence Award is Mt. Juliet High School in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.  This award honors a K-12 school or district which has demonstrated a commitment to integrating students with learning disabilities into the general classroom and provides ongoing opportunities for staff to learn about and train on the use of technology in order to help meet and sustain this commitment. Mt. Juliet recognizes the importance of integrating technology into the classroom and puts a high priority on teacher training to ensure that this happens. Teachers are asked to design and implement technology-based lessons in all classrooms and some of the strongest gains as a result of these lessons have been for students with learning disabilities. Mt. Juliet was selected to serve as a pilot school in carrying out a school-designed, school-implemented, professional development program for the Tennessee Department of Accountability. Their goal was to impact student learning using technology by raising test scores from the previous three-year Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Mt. Juliet met their goal by raising both 11th grade Writing Assessment scores as well as ACT test scores. As a result of the success of their program, Mt Juliet was invited to serve as a mentor school to five other schools in Tennessee. These schools will work closely with Mt. Juliet staff to provide in-service training for their teachers on the uses of technology, including Kurzweil 3000, in their classrooms. In addition, the technology coach at Mt. Juliet, Diane Bennett, has been asked to share information about their technology integration program with schools in several other states and has presented at numerous state and national conferences.

Winner of the Teaching Excellence Award is Mary Hinson, a job developer instructor/transition specialist at the Catalina Magnet High School in Tucson, Ariz. This award honors a K-12 teacher, in general or special education, who demonstrates excellence in teaching, strong interest in or understanding of how technology can be integrated into the curriculum, and a commitment to helping students with learning disabilities reach their full potential. Hinson teaches English to students with learning disabilities and assists them in developing and implementing transition plans from high school to post-secondary education, employment, or training. One of her goals has been to replicate the assistive technology options that are offered at the postsecondary level so that her students can learn to use the same technology that they will be using in college thus helping to ensure their successful transition from high school. She has received several awards and recognition for her efforts on behalf of her students and has developed numerous partnerships with corporations as well as postsecondary institutions to provide technology, training, and job opportunities for her LD students.

"This award will make such a difference in the lives of my students at Catalina Magnet High School," said Mary Hinson.  "I had taken them to see Kurzweil 3000 in action at the University of Arizona and they were so excited to learn that they would now have access to this valuable tool in their own classroom. Thank you for making my dream, and theirs, a reality." 

NCLD Bill Ellis Teacher Preparation and Kurzweil 3000 Software Awards
This year's winner of the NCLD Bill Ellis Teacher Preparation and Kurzweil 3000 Software Awards is Jennifer Combs, Title 1 teacher, from Whitney Elementary School in Boise, Idaho. These awards recognize a general education teacher who touches the lives of children in the classroom and demonstrates a commitment to encouraging and supporting students who are most at risk for school failure, including those with LD. Combs will receive her award at the 56th Annual International Dyslexia Association Conference being held November 9-12 in Denver, Colo.

Combs supervises a team of Title I volunteers and tutors, running a before school help center, overseeing and coordinating services for over 100 young English Language Learners, doing school-wide scheduling of related service providers, overseeing school-side standardized testing and data analysis, serving on the school-wide leadership team that focuses on cross-grade and cross-content collaboration, and most recently, assuming the role of parent involvement coordinator. In addition, with training and support from the Lee Pesky Center, she has had enormous success in her one-on-one and small group efforts with students who struggle with learning, particularly in the area of reading. She has orchestrated school-wide extended day programs, providing instructional support to both students and faculty. She has cultivated trusting relationships between and among faculty and school leadership that allow for new, evidence-based instruction to be infused into classrooms. She has coordinated a program of rotating substitute teachers to allow for ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers. She has also instituted a "grade night" program where parents of students in each grade are invited to learn how they can participate as full partners in preparing their children for successful mastery of core skills.

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