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Nassau BOCES honors Long Island’s educational technology trailblazers at annual summit

 Woman smiling as she is being handed an award by a smiling man.
Deidre Rubenstrunk (right), Executive Director of Technology for Three Village CSD, is presented with the Fred Podolski Leadership and Innovation Award by Ryan Ruf of Eastern Suffolk BOCES.
 Woman smiling as she is being handed an award by a smiling woman.
Retired Elwood music educator Vickie Henson (right) is presented with the Fred Podolski Leadership and Innovation Award by Paula Klingelhoefer of Western Suffolk BOCES.

The Fred Podolski Leadership and Innovation Awards were presented to two of Long Island’s top pioneers in educational technology this fall, at the 2022 Long Island Technology and Education Summit (LITES). Vickie Henson, retired John Glenn High School Band Director from the Elwood UFSD, earned the “Most Innovative Use of Technology Award.” Data Protection Officer Deidre Rubenstrunk, the Executive Director of Technology for Three Village CSD, earned the “Visionary Award.” 

The commemorative awards, honoring trailblazers in educational technology, is conferred in memory of Fred Podolski, longtime Director of the Nassau BOCES Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology. Mr. Podolski was a firm believer in the impact of technology on student performance.  

Ms. Hensen was honored for her dynamic application of education technology. During her 30-plus years in Elwood schools, she used technology to effectively bridge the gap between available funds and her grand aspirations for the JGHS music program. 

“I love technology and what it can do for both teachers and students,” Ms. Hensen said. “As a music teacher, I was always looking for ways to make teaching and learning more effective. Technology gave me back the vital time I needed to manage administrative details while doing what was most important; teaching and making music with my students.” 

“Ms. Hensen was an outstanding music educator and a true technology innovator,” said Gene Tranchino, Elwood’s Executive Director of Technology and Transportation. “She adopted the available technology to enhance the educational process, providing better opportunities for her students. She always had a positive attitude and incredible energy. She is truly missed by all of us in the district.” 

As technology director, Ms. Rubenstrunk’s implementation of tech tools successfully facilitated instruction and improved student achievement. She introduced virtual learning platforms, individual student laptops loaded with professional software, created an Instructional Technology Playbook for the district and established a number of guiding technology principles.  

“Technology is applying innovation to what we already do,” said Ms. Rubenstrunk. “It is more of a mindset and philosophy then it is a tool or a piece of hardware. What I have found to be the most impactful is not the hardware or the software, but the relationships. I’m asking students and teachers to take risks, and to do things that feel uncomfortable.” 

“Ms. Rubenstrunk has been at the forefront of educational technology in our district, making sure that we are always innovative in the way we approach technology,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Scanlon. “Our students are exposed to resources that they have traditionally never had, and so it’s essential that they be taught the proper way to use them. Ms. Rubenstrunk has been critical to that effort.” 

The annual LITE Summit is hosted by the three Long Island BOCES, in partnership with the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education. Each year, educators from across the region gather to discuss the use of technology in our schools to improve instruction and student performance.