By FRITZ PETERS
During this past December, Jessica Trager, a veteran educator at Wood River Middle School, passed away after a noble and courageous fight with cancer. Jessica taught many subjects at Wood River Middle School, spending many years as a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher. Yet she will be most remembered for her role as an innovator for staff and students in her role as a computer applications teacher. Her classes were completely web-based and designed to help students learn skills from basic keyboarding to the intricacies of the World Wide Web version 2.0.
She designed a wonderful curriculum that stressed the ethical, innovative and appropriate entrance of our early adolescents into the vast cyber world of connectivity and resources. She always stressed safety and personal security while allowing the students to venture into learning programs that were educationally sound. Her learning sites were often built on competitive games and problem-solving programs to motivate students.
Mrs. Trager, however, did not limit her work to instructing students. She will also be remembered for the multitude of classes she offered to our staff and community members and to Idaho students across the state. She was a very strong proponent of digital learning and was very active as an Idaho Digital Learning Academy instructor. She taught many students each year well past the regular school hours. Her days were long and challenging, yet her focus was always on the youth of this great community and the great state of Idaho. Susie Reese, a district office coordinator for professional development, will attest to the vast amount of classes Jessica taught to adults. She was a pioneer in bringing staff members up to speed with new software versions or assisting first-time users. She was also instrumental in assisting classified staff in gaining key technology skills as they sought to earn their credentials.
She was a true visionary of how we, as educators, must adapt to the 21st century and to the students who are digital natives. She worked tirelessly to get people to understand the positive aspects of opening up our schools to the world.
In speaking to the our administrative council, district Superintendent Lonnie Barber retold a story of how Jessica Trager cornered him one day at Wood River Middle School and inspired him to take action to loosen the internet filtering software to allow greater access for staff and students.
Walk the halls of any school in our district and look in a classroom. You will see streaming video on laptops, tablets and interactive whiteboards. Students now see stunning videos as compared to pictures in a book. Students communicate with other students internationally. Students have access to a broadband feed that allows hundreds to work simultaneously on research, project-based learning and interactive software learning programs.
Jessica is not solely responsible for all this, but surely she was our earliest and most fervent champion of technology innovation for the sake of enhanced learning experiences. She will be sorely missed, but long remembered for her vision of an enhanced school system.
As we venture into the early years of the second decade of the 21st century, it is with fond thoughts of a futurist, a visionary and a splendid colleague who made a difference—Mrs. Jessica Trager.
Fritz Peters is the principal of Wood River Middle School.