Meet Leigh Fitzgerald
Leigh Fitzgerald, Executive Director at Hawaii Technology Academy, first became a member of HSTE many years ago, at a Schools of the Future Conference. She was later encouraged to serve on the HSTE board and has since called her service on the board “rewarding.” Leigh grew up in Cape Cod, MA, and graduated from Brown University (Education and American Civilization) and Harvard University (Education Administration, Planning and Social Policy); she then found her home in Maui for the past decade and a half. She resides on West Maui with her 2 year old daughter, Nel and her husband Andrew, who is also an educator. Her hobbies include running, yoga, hiking, and travel-- anything, she describes, that keeps her “outside and moving.” Leigh has taught at the following schools:
Belmont High School (MA), Wheeler School (Providence R.I), Hope Essential Charter (Providence R.I), Lahainaluna HS, Maui Preparatory Academy (teacher, Principal), Wildwood School (Los Angeles, CA- Principal).
Continue to get to know Leigh in the Q & A section below!
Q : How did you get into education?
A : I was just telling a friend this story the other day! In 5th grade I had an AMAZING teacher- Mr. Flaherty. He was a progressive educator with a deeper learning practice long before it was a “thing.” Mr. Flaherty made everything a game, project or competition. Even as a 5th grader I could see that he paired students together or regularly rotated groups to ensure that all students felt as though they were on both the “winning” and the “losing” team at times. He was a master at pairing kids like me- who excelled in reading and writing and “being good” with the kids who struggled as readers but could build a replica of the pyramid of giza to scale in 5 minutes and then decorate it with manga cartoons of the pharaohs! I was the kid who loved learning, but Mr. Flaherty made me want to always be learning and to make others love learning as well.
Q : If we were to catch you on a weekend, what would you most likely be doing?
A : Walking, catching up on a never ending to do list of work tasks and house tasks, walking some more, taking my daughter to the beach, yoga, eating a great meal out with my husband, and walking a little bit more….
Q : What do you love about working in education?
A: No two days are ever the same. I refer to school as “the big show”- you never know what is going to happen next. At HTA I feel especially fortunate because we have a seven campus school and I get to work with different people and in a different school setting every day of the week. I often remark to people that regardless of which campus I work on on a given day, I always enjoy going to work and the students, parents and teachers that I am going to get to see there. I don’t feel like many people get to say that about one campus, let alone seven. How lucky am I?
Q : What is your favorite food? Why?
A : As a genre, Indian. That said, any spicy seafood or vegetarian dish served with rice makes me happy. The spicier the better
Q : If you could be any object in the world, what would you be and why?
A : A checklist. I love making lists and crossing things off- even “fun” things. (this is actually the last question that I am completing and I will now check “do HSTE questionnaire off my task list for today)
Q : How did you first get involved in HSTE? What made you want to join?
A : I became a member many years ago through the Schools of the Future conference. My then school, Maui Prep, was one of the original Schools of the Future cohort participants. Through that group I became friends with current multi-term HSTE board member Lisa Mireles. Lisa later encouraged me to apply to serve on the board. Lisa has provided me with a lot of great advice over the past decade of my career and serving on the HSTE board has been rewarding.
Q : Why do you think tech integration is important for students?
A : Students today want (and need) to learn the way that the live. Technology surrounds us everywhere. It IS part of our daily lives, even for those of us who don’t have cable, who do put our phones away at night and who don’t check email around the clock. It’s still there- driving the world that we all live in. Technology brings education to the level that kids can and want to engage with learning. For teachers it opens almost an overwhelming number of opportunities to expand their pedagogical practice and student engagement and for administrators it provides the ability to creatively and efficiently manage small and large scale schools and systems that improve and support the student, teacher and parent experience at our schools.
Q : What is one thing you’ve done at your school that you’re proud of?
A : Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA) has evolved in significant ways over the past six years and one of our challenges was how to succinctly explain what blended learning means and looks like at HTA. Two years ago the Governing Board, teachers and administration took a great deal of time to define and redraft the school’s mission, vision and core values. This led to a huge rebranding campaign that has succeeded in defining HTA’s blended learning experience. What I am most proud of is that literally 100% of our teachers, staff and administration have been involved in this effort. Their opinions and input are crucial to the success of our school.
Q : Any advice for other educators getting involved in technology integration?
A : Don’t scared, never be afraid to ask for help and the people who are younger than us, usually know how to do it!