Santa Rosa District Schools announced Debbie Anderson, principal, S. S. Dixon Primary School in Santa Rosa County, as the district’s Innovative Principal of the Year. This award is sponsored annually by the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders at the state level. In addition to receiving the district nomination, Debbie has been identified as one of the top three nominees at the state level.

Debbie has served as a school administrator in Santa Rosa County for 13 years, eight years as principal at SS Dixon Primary School, and five years as assistant principal at Berryhill Elementary School. Before entering administration, she worked in special education. Debbie is a hands-on principal with a heavy focus on implementing technology. Anderson recognizes her students are “digital natives” and need the same diversity of learning at school that technology provides for her students at home. Understanding this need, Debbie instituted a plan of action that meets the needs of her diverse learners, incorporating flexible and alternative tools to interact with their curriculum. Her prior experience as a special education teacher influenced her drive to empower and engage students by utilizing their learning styles and interests.

Believing that technology would positively influence student performance as well as student behavior, Debbie has worked tirelessly to incorporate cutting-edge instruction in which students learn new things in new ways, so they can live and work in a changing world. With a focus on the core subjects in conjunction with addressing critical thinking and problem solving skills, communication, creativity and innovation and collaboration, a transformation has occurred within the classrooms. She has promoted the use of technology with interactive Mimio bars and tablets, student response systems, Red Cat classroom amplification systems, document cameras, LCD projectors, laptops, iPads, wireless listening stations, digital storytelling, Brain Pop Jr., Discovery Education, Education City and virtual science labs. By staying abreast of the latest academic research on best practices and resources, web-based educational software such as IXL Math has been launched within the classrooms to include a home component to help students learn and retain math skills, which has attributed to the 9.5 percent increase of students scoring at or above the expected proficiency level. The 9.1 percent increase in reading fluency among Dixon Primary students has been effected by such software programs as Raz-Kids.com, which provides readers with the opportunity to go online and listen to, read and record themselves reading books written at 27 levels of difficulty.

Anderson’s primary and creative funding source, Haystackular, which received state recognition, enabled her to increase technology considerably in the classroom, keeping her promise to the parents of her students. Her contributions to developing communal ties and promoting a high level of involvement from students, parents, staff members and business partners laid the foundation for making S. S. Dixon Primary a 21st century school.

In recognition of this award, Anderson will receive a laptop computer from the district and funding to attend the Florida Educational Technology Conference in Orlando, where she will be honored at an awards luncheon on Jan. 29.

The principal receiving first place from the top three nominees will be named at the luncheon. District and school staff will attend the luncheon with Anderson.