Gordon County School officials, regional lawmakers, school board members and other guests joined the students and staff of Tolbert Elementary School on Monday morning in celebration of the school’s designation as an Apple Distinguished School.

“The award is not for something you strive to achieve, it’s recognition of something you’re already doing,” Chuck Langston, instructional technology coordinator, told the crowd during an assembly Monday.

This designation comes following a tedious application process, where school officials described the use iPads in kindergarten through fifth grade to enhance student engagement in the classroom. It is Tolbert Elementary School’s mission to provide students and faculty with a technology-rich learning environment. Through the effective use of 1:1 technology, including individual iPads (K-5) and iMac labs, student achievement is increased with collaboration, critical thinking skills, and creativity. The administration and faculty at Tolbert Elementary are diligent advocates for students.

To date, the honor has been granted to 470 schools in 34 countries. Only five other schools in Georgia have been recognized by Apple, with Tolbert Elementary being the first public school in the state.

Bryan Nicholson, director of technology for the school system, said the seed for the recognition was planted as the school began a remodel three years ago. Smart boards were replaced with 70-inch Apple televisions and students and teachers were issued iPads and MacBooks to use in class.

Nicholson said the technology has become a complimentary set of tools for teachers and students to use because it allows students to engage in the lesson.

“Students today really like participating in their learning instead of the ‘sit and get’ way of doing things,” he said.

Caroline Stephens, instructional technology coordinator for K-5, said the devices create opportunities for students who may not have access to such technology elsewhere to digitally explore and create.

Principal Sket Angland was presented a framed declaration from an Apple representative in honor of the designation, and she was quick to praise her teachers and students for embracing the move to a more technology-driven classroom.

“Kids, you do amazing things every day. Teachers, you do amazing things every day,” she said.

On the company’s website, Apple describes the recognition like so: “Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrate Apple’s vision for learning with technology — and we believe they are some of the most innovative schools in the world.“

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