Three Innovator of the Year winners announced

An application to streamline parental choice in learning location; a 30-minute television show for young learners; and a program to get at-risk middle school students back on track.

What do they all have in common? They’re being recognized as the 2021 Innovators of the Year.

The Innovator of the Year award is named for former Northside Superintendent Ed Rawlinson, and is presented annually by the Northside Education Foundation (NEF) to Northside employees whose creative ideas improve schools or the district, and is ground-breaking, efficient, cost-effective, and timely.

For the first time, NISD has three Innovator of the Year award winners. In addition to multiple winners, this is also the first year that groups have been honored.

The 2021 honorees are:

Steven Anderson, Student Information Systems Coordinator of Programming Services

Steven Anderson’s innovation benefited not only the district as a whole, but each individual campus, and all NISD families. As the District started the 2020-21 school year with virtual learning, the Texas Education Agency set guidelines to allow parents to select their child's learning locations throughout the school year.

Anderson built an online application to capture that data, create reports, and share that information with campuses and at the District level. It was used multiple times through the year and updated to fit the needs of the District and community at any given time, including being available in seven different languages.

His work enabled the sharing of timely and consistent information for planning purposes as families made choices about their child’s learning locations each grading cycle. At the end of the year, this application also allowed families to determine if their child was eligible for virtual learning.


Learning for Littles – Kimberly Bundick, Lisa Dadci-Rosillo, Marcelle Landin, Marissa Rodriguez, Kimberly Swenson, Barbara Triplett, and Patricia Zamora

The Northside Early Child Education team partnered with Teaching & Learning Department staff to produce a video series that was broadcast on KABB each Saturday during the summer of 2020. The goal of “Learning for Littles” was to inspire students and parents to continue to learn through fun, engaging activities for the District’s youngest students, the littles, at home during the pandemic.

The focus of the show was on literacy, STEM, and math aligned to Prekindergarten and Kinder curriculum. Classroom teachers also created lessons and activities and children of staff were included to bring a child’s perspective to the show.

This innovation allowed for continued support not only of student academic needs but also their social and emotional needs. Learning for Littles also demonstrated that even from afar, Northside ISD is always there for families.


Middle School Online Course Protection Program – Emily Countryman, Elaine Estrada, Gina Garza, Matt Garrett, Rick Gomez, Jennifer A. Gonzales, Stacey Griggs, Katherine Lyssy, Gerri Rizzo, and Crystal Szcyubialka

The Middle School Online Course Protection Program provided at-risk students with the opportunity to utilize an interactive, online core course (Math, English Language Arts (ELA), Science or Social Studies) to re-learn content that was previously failed in a grading cycle. This allowed students to turn a failing grade into a passing grade and stay on track with their grade-level peers.

This collaboration included staff from Curriculum and Instruction; Counseling; Student Advocacy and School Choice; State and Federal Programs; and Information Services. They developed 84 online, interactive core courses for students, built a Student Success System for campuses to manage enrollment in the courses, and enlisted a dedicated group of Student Success Advisors to provide support including nights and weekends.

Through this innovative program, more than 7,600 core courses were recovered and passed which reduced the number of students failing and being retained.


Superintendent Dr. Brian Woods announced the winners during the virtual Support Leadership Teams (SLT) Institute.

Nominations are submitted from throughout the District, and a committee from NEF selects winners from those nominations.

Visit the Grants website for a list of Innovators of the Year since the recognition began in 2002-2003.