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Falcon Zone Shows Success at Modern Teacher Awards

Part One (Part Two)

Falcon Zone NCDC award winners

Bethany Stegman, Barbara Frederiksen and Jamie Calhoun were national award winners at the 2022 conference. 

The Falcon Zone and District 49 celebrated the success of Empower FZ as eight staff members and the zone were finalists at the national Modern Teacher National Conference on Digital Convergence (NCDC) in February.

Modern Teacher List 2022D49’s Falcon Zone is a role-model team of educators among hundreds of school districts participating in the Modern Teacher framework, producing a nation-leading 16 NCDC finalists and five winners in the last three years. The awards highlight the implementation and success of Empower FZ in the Falcon Zone.

For a third-consecutive year, at least one Modern Teacher national award winner is from the Falcon Zone. “I’m honored we had seven people from our zone as finalists this year,” Falcon Zone Leader Sue Holmes said. “It means the professional learning we are offering is working. I’m proud of our zone. It’s hard for teachers to totally change how they teach. It’s hard for leaders to lead such a major change. It’s a journey.”

Reflecting on why the Falcon Zone has continually shown growth and success, Holmes goes back to the process. “We are consistently focused on this vision of having every learner be empowered. Every learner is being challenged at the level they are ready for. Every learner is totally engaged in their learning.”

D49’s Falcon Zone National Award Winners:

Change Management Principal of the Year:
Bethany Stegman, Woodmen Hills Elementary School

Holmes said, “Bethany is only in her second year as a principal. She has done an excellent job transitioning into the leader of Woodman Hills Elementary School and still continuing the hard work of leading this change of modernizing and personalizing the classrooms. She is consistent in that work. She intimately knows where her teachers are, and therefore is responsive to their needs. Bethany totally leads the professional learning in that building. She really works at having teachers understand our instructional model and having it come alive in their classrooms.”

“This award is affirmation of an entire school community full of hard work focused on whatever it takes for our kids,” Stegman said. “You could etch my name off the trophy, it’s truly our entire team, the former principals of WHES who paved the way, and exceptional colleagues and leadership who welcomed me on this journey.  I lead in an approach that is full of walking alongside our staff, so they get the same professional learning and coaching approach we expect of our teachers in their—relationships first, trust to take risks and fail forward, and learning and implementation of Empower FZ at a pace that is rigorous yet reasonable for them and their role.” 

“I am so proud to lead WHES every single day,” Stegman said. “When you have a team of staff members who love their work, this trickles to kids who love learning.  This award provides national recognition to a team of all-in mentality after several hard years in education.  And by team, I mean we truly have students, staff, and families who are committed to one another and student learning. This collaborative, partnership approach is truly what sets WHES apart and makes it the best school on earth.” 

Middle School Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year:
Barbara Frederiksen, Falcon Middle School sixth-grade math teacher

Firebird Nation Executive Principal Brian Smith said, “Barbara took it upon herself to learn some of the components of the modern teacher professional learning platform. She asked us to come into the classroom and provide feedback. She wanted to figure it out, to make it work. She went full steam ahead. Within a month, her classroom went from trying things, to nearly full implementation. When I go into the classroom, she has small groups happening. Individual learning happening. Using technology or pencil and paper.”

“In math, we know kids are all over the place,” Smith said. “She is meeting kids at the level they are at and pushing them up to where they need to be to get back on grade level, meeting those individual needs. That’s why she won.”

“I was so very honored and humbled to receive this award,” Frederiksen said. “The pandemic was such a challenge to work through, but the tools and tricks I learned through the Modern Teacher Process helped me navigate this so well. Learning plans gave my classroom the tools needed to best meet the individual learning needs of students and personalize the process for each and every one of my students.”

 “I believe this award is a confirmation of the quality of hard work that all teachers are doing at FMS to give their students ‘learner choice and voice’ in the classroom,” Frederiksen said. “Students have been flexible as we co-constructed the learning environment. They were very adaptable as we jumped into ‘Learning Plans’ and I truly believe that they will be lifelong learners in the future.”

“No one receives national recognition without a team of people in the background teaching, coaching, and supporting me throughout this process. The admin team, Mr. Smith, Ms. Forehand, Ms. Owen and Ms. Murdock have observed my teaching, gave me quality feedback and supported my learning process in creating a Personalized Learning Classroom. And, the support doesn’t stop there, the sixth-grade team of teachers at FMS are amazing.”

 “This award is a confirmation that the Falcon Zone is the best at creating an environment where students can take ownership of their learning,” Frederiksen said. “I have been so proud of my own students in my classroom and all that they have been doing to truly demonstrate their understanding and show their mathematical skills.”

Intermediate Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year:
Jamie Calhoun, third-grade teacher at Meridian Ranch Elementary School

MRES Principal Sheehan Freeman-Todd said, “Mrs. Calhoun has taken her experiences as a classroom teacher to greater heights by winning this award.  With her warm and caring nature, students feel comfortable, accountable, and know what they must do to learn and grow.  By using the researched-based practices behind Modern Teacher, Mrs. Calhoun is having students increasingly invested in understanding their own progress.” 

“The students have meaning and purpose, and Mrs. Calhoun provides an open environment, yet structured place to be productive,” Freeman-Todd said. “They are working around the room and choosing how to learn while Mrs. Calhoun floats around seeing individual students, small groups, and sometimes directing instruction to the whole class.  The room is full of life and students are making active choices in how they learn the skills they need to master third grade while making Mrs. Calhoun proud.” 

“It’s still a little surreal to me, actually,” Calhoun said. “I’m in my tenth year of teaching, and I continue to learn new strategies and teaching techniques to try to improve what I bring to my students each year, so to be recognized for that is hard to put into words.”

“The recognition has been great for my students, as well as myself. We talk a lot about the effort we put into our work is a reflection of us. Not only do my students represent my class, we all represent Meridian Ranch and D49. They know this is not my award, but our award as a team. I keep it in my classroom as a reminder to each of us that our hard work is noticed and we should always give our best, whatever our best is each day.”

“We are in a new age of teaching, as well as learning, and the students have risen to every challenge they’ve been given,” Calhoun said. 

2022 National Winners and Finalists from D49 Falcon Zone:

Change Agent Teacher of the Year
Cori Owen, Falcon Middle School

Primary Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year
Elizabeth Marshall, Woodmen Hills Elementary School
Christy Jensen, Meridian Ranch Elementary School 

Intermediate Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year
Jamie Calhoun, Meridian Ranch Elementary School, Award Winner

Middle School Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year
Barbara Frederiksen, Falcon Middle School, Award Winner
Jen McDonald, Falcon Middle School

Change Management Principal of the Year
Bethany Stegman, Woodmen Hills Elementary School, Award Winner
Brian Smith, Falcon Middle School

Modern Curriculum of the Year
Falcon Zone

You can see what each finalist has to say in videos they created for the awards.


Previous Finalists and Winners

NCDC 2020: 

Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year Finalist
Aaron Lentner, Meridian Ranch Elementary School

Change Management Principal of the Year 
Brian Smith, Falcon Middle School, Award Winner


NCDC 2021:

Teacher Resilience and Innovation Finalist
Cori Owen, Falcon Middle School
KayLee Parson, Falcon Middle School

Personalized Learning Classroom of the Year Finalist
Melissa Ardolf, Falcon Elementary School

Change Management District Leader of the Year
Sue Holmes, Award Winner


Many people might ask, what is Modern Teacher and what does this mean for our Falcon Zone students? Those questions are answered here in part two of this story, “Empowering Students to Learn.”


D49 Core Commitment Spotlight: People 

Through the month of March, D49 is collaborating with the communications department to feature stories that show how D49 values all people by putting our values of care and respect into action through strategic initiatives that promote equity, respect diversity, and celebrate the contributions of all. 

Joel Quevillon