SmartBrief Announces Winners of Second Annual Educators’ Choice Content Awards

Winners will be honored at a reception at the ASCD Annual Conference in April


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) January 7, 2016 – Last year, SmartBrief readers were challenged to think outside the box by two original content pieces on learning with laughter and why student data doesn’t tell the whole story. The two stories were selected by readers as the winners of SmartBrief’s second annual Educators’ Choice Content Awards. “Laughter and Learning: Humor Boosts Retention” by Sarah Henderson and “Data Doesn’t Tell a Student’s Whole Story” by Ramy Mahmoud were chosen from among 20 original content pieces written by educators, for educators.

“The Educators’ Choice Content Award is a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on the amazing things educators are doing inside and outside the classroom,” said Senior Education Editor Melissa Greenwood. “The content written by this year’s winners caught our editors’ and readers’ attention because of the unique topics and innovative voices of the educators.”

Each month SmartBrief Education editors honor two original content pieces that inspire readers to engage, innovate, and discuss. At the end of the year, the editors asked readers to pick their favorite of the 20 stories; more than 5,300 voted. In addition, members of ASCD’s Emerging Leaders program—a group of diverse, forward-thinking educators—weighed in with their top picks.

Both winners will be honored during a reception at the ASCD Annual Conference in April.

Sarah Henderson has taught high-school English in private schools in Michigan, California, and Arizona for the past 19 years. She is passionate about becoming a better teacher by learning more about the cognitive functions of the brain.

“Thank you to the SmartBlog editors,” Sarah said when she learned about being chosen for the award. “I am honored to be selected as an Educator’s Choice Content Award winner. It’s exciting to bring further attention to the advantages of using humor in the classroom.”

Ramy Mahmoud is a science teacher for the Plano Independent School District in Texas and is a part-time senior lecturer at The University of Texas at Dallas.

“I am incredibly honored to accept this award,” Ramy told editors. “Every bit of success I’ve had in teaching has come from lessons learned from fellow educators and role models. It’s so humbling and incredibly gratifying to know that I may now play a small role in influencing my colleagues.”

Read more about the awards program and access links to each nominated story.

About SmartBrief

Serving more than five million senior executives, thought leaders, and industry professionals, SmartBrief is the leading online publisher of targeted business news and information by industry. By combining technology and editorial expertise, SmartBrief filters thousands of sources daily to deliver the most relevant industry news in partnership with more than 180 trade associations, professional societies, nonprofits, and corporate entities. Visit for more details.


 NCTQ to Release Findings on Teacher Education Textbooks

Report Critiques Textbooks Which Cost Teacher Candidates $40 Million Annually

WHO: National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

WHAT: NCTQ will release Learning About Learning, a new report which analyzes how well textbooks used to train our next generation of teachers cover teaching strategies proven to help students learn. The report will look at the extent to which six instructional strategies found by the Institute of Education Sciences to be instrumental in promoting student learning and retention are discussed in a sample of teacher education textbooks being used nationwide.

WHEN: January 13, 2016 at 12:01 AM


Embargoed copies of the report are available now to members of the press upon request. Please contact Dan Glaser to request a copy.  

About the National Council on Teacher Quality

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a nonpartisan research and policy group committed to modernizing the teaching profession based on the belief that all children deserve effective teachers. We recognize that it is not teachers who bear responsibility for their profession’s many challenges, but the institutions with the greatest authority and influence over teachers. To that end we work to achieve fundamental changes in the policy and practices of teacher preparation programs, school districts, state governments, and teachers unions. Our Board of Directors and Advisory Board come from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives, and they all believe that policy changes are overdue in the recruitment and retention of teachers. More information about NCTQ can be found on our website,


Hawai’i State Department of Education Adopts Defined STEM Curriculum to Engage Students in Statewide Renewable Energy Initiatives 

Defined Learning and the Hawai’i DOE are partnering with OpTerra Energy Services on Ka Hei, a comprehensive energy and sustainability education program

 (Honolulu, HI) January 12, 2016 – Defined STEM, the flagship curriculum supplement of Defined Learning, today announced its five-year partnership with OpTerra Energy Services and the Hawai’i State Department of Education (HIDOE) to support Ka Hei, a statewide strategic program kicked off in 2014, that educates students about sustainable energy transitions happening across schools throughout the state.

Hawai’i is the most fossil-fuel-dependent state in the nation, and the state’s schools spend $48 million a year on electricity alone. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative aims to relieve the state’s dependence on oil by using 100% clean energy by 2045.

The goal of the Ka Hei program is to integrate innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, all while reducing energy costs. As a comprehensive energy and sustainability program, Ka Hei will transform the learning environment, reduce operational expenses, and provide engaging educational opportunities for Hawai’i’s students and community.

“We are pleased to be part of this partnership with Defined Learning and OpTerra to create such a versatile educational experience for Hawai’i’s students,” said Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, Suzanne Mulcahy. “We live in one of the most isolated places in the world, and we are stewards of the land we love. We need to take care of our land by using our renewable resources. Our students are the future, and we need to educate them about how to keep our island beautiful.”

OpTerra is designing and implementing a wide variety of new energy technologies that will lower costs and help each school across the islands become more sustainable. To date, energy experts from Defined Learning and OpTerra teams have given more than 300 teachers hands-on professional development to analyze scalable technology such as wind turbines and solar panels in their classrooms.

“The Hawai’i DOE and Defined Learning are great partners in educating students about initiatives happening in their own backyard,” said Dawn Johnson, National Education Manager at OpTerra. “Together we will create a sustainable and energy-efficient environment while helping students understand the importance of protecting the land they know and love.”

The Defined STEM curriculum is available to all 256 schools across the eight islands of Hawai’i, which form one large school district. Grade-specific lessons give teachers an understanding of green initiatives that can be used in their classrooms. Defined STEM performance tasks challenge students with hands-on projects that include research and engaging videos that align with the Common Core and the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards. In completing the tasks, students will learn core principles of science and will see the relevance of community initiatives such as moving to solar energy, limiting waste, encouraging recycling, and reducing water usage with low-flow toilets. They will also discover potential careers related to sustainable energy.

“Defined STEM is honored to be part of the Ka Hei initiative,” said Joel Jacobson, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Defined Learning. “As students see changes happening in their community, they are able to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world in which they live—while exploring new technology and career opportunities at the same time.”

About Defined Learning:

Defined Learning is a K-12 educational media company that combines technology, creativity, and curriculum expertise to provide useful and relevant products to schools. Defined Learning’s flagship service, Defined STEM, is a platform that enables teachers to provide application of knowledge to students through the use of project-based learning, real-world careers and meaningful reading and writing activities. To learn more, visit

About OpTerra Energy Services:

OpTerra Energy Services is a national energy company that partners with school districts, cities, counties, and commercial and industrial firms to implement comprehensive sustainability solutions that save money, generate revenue, improve assets, and protect the environment. We have saved our partners over $2 billion in energy savings over the past 40 years. Learn more at

About the Hawaii State Department of Education:

The Hawaii State Department of Education is the ninth-largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 256 schools and 34 charter schools, and serves more than 180,000 students. King Kamehameha III established Hawaii’s public school system in 1840. To learn more, visit