When Lukas Gotto first heard he won the technology leader of the year from Sourcewell Technology, his initial response was laughter. He had to read his acceptance notification a few times.
“I was like, ‘no way,’” the technology integrationist at Discovery Middle School said. “I was pretty shocked and very humbled.”
Gotto, who was one of eight finalists, was recognized at Sourcewell's annual Impact Education Conference in Minneapolis. The December conference brought almost 1,500 school educators, administrators, technology coordinators and others together for four days of education about impacting student achievement.
“Lukas has been an influential leader in enhancing learning opportunities with technology for students both directly and indirectly in our schools and community,” his nomination letter read. “His passion, advocacy, creativity, and dedication has resulted in growing students’ curiosity and desire to engage in learning through the use of instructional technology and innovative teaching practices.”
Gotto first heard about the technology leader of the year award from his wife. He submitted an application consisting of 500-word answers to five questions, and was chosen from the pool of applicants by a panel of judges.
Principal Matt Aker at the middle school credited the work Gotto has done with other groups in the area for his recognition.
"He is willing to share the 'how' he is able to do things with others, so they can grow teachers in their district. He shares his skill-set, time, and energy with others graciously," Aker said. "He genuinely cares for everyone around him, and has developed a position in our district as a technology integrationist that allows staff and students to flourish."
Representatives from Sourcewell created a video about Gotto after following him around for a few hours during a school day. The video was shown at the conference.
The conference features incredible keynote speakers who are sometimes international visitors, Gotto said, and several hundred breakout sessions to choose from. This year, he enjoyed learning about cyber security during these sessions.
“Digital citizenship is not going to go anywhere,” he said. “Technology is going to keep getting more ingrained into our lives, whether we like it or not.”
Joining Gotto at the conference were Aker and Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at Alexandria Public Schools.
Gotto and Sansted gave a presentation about Makercamp to a group of people, who Gotto said were blown away at the project and its community impact.
Makercamp was one of the reasons Gotto won the award. Makercamp is an educational construction program for students in grades 2-8 that took place last summer. Students helped build a 55-foot-long boardwalk and 30-foot bridge that connected walking paths behind DMS to better invite students and the community to take part in nature.
“You don’t realize sometimes that what you’re doing is pretty cool on a bigger level like that,” Gotto said.
He is also the first, and only, technology integrationist in the Alexandria School District. He has worked to improve classroom instruction, including leading the district in online professional development.
Gotto implemented the Alexandria Technology Champions, a cross-section of the district’s K-12 educators trained with innovative tech tools and are responsible for training others. He secured grant dollars to purchase classroom technology tools and kits.
He also has been the main person in charge of starting the Alexandria Cool School Plunge, a polar plunge fundraiser for school activities, the school’s Unified Club and Special Olympics Minnesota.
"Lukas has the skill to bring learning to life for any age level. From his days in the social studies classroom, to now when he is teaching adults, his passion and excitement is infectious," Aker said. "His creative solutions and approaches to challenges, along with his attitude to help those around him are his greatest strengths.
"Honestly, I have not found a challenge that he hasn't been willing to take on."