Announcing the 2017 Pop Culture Classroom Educator of the Year Award Winners!

We are excited to announce the 2017 winners of the first-ever Pop Culture Educator of the Year Award! Each of the award-winners below has demonstrated innovative use of pop culture as an educational tool in their classrooms to engage and inspire students, as well as create lasting impacts in their schools and local communities. We are pleased to recognize and honor their wonderful work!

In addition to one of PCC’s own pop culture-based curricula, each award-winner will receive two 3-day passes to Denver Comic Con 2017 (June 30- July 2, 2017), as well as a special DCC’17 prize package.

Thank you to everyone who nominated an educator this year! We were excited to hear about so many excellent educators using pop culture in their classrooms.


ELEMENTARY-LEVEL AWARD

Elementary-Level Awardee – Tracy LeVeaux

Pop Culture Classroom - Tracey LeVeauxTracy LeVeaux teaches 4th grade at Lotus School for Excellence, a public charter school in Aurora. This is his 14th year in education, having taught grades 1 through 6 (minus 2nd).

“I try to incorporate pop culture into my classroom for several reasons. First, it is always an engaging method of introducing a new topic, making an analogy to better understand a current lesson, or to review previous concepts. Another, more important reason, is its usefulness in teaching English Language Learners (ELLs). Comic books are such a visual medium, which allows me to relate to my ELL students. I incorporate storyboards into my writing lessons as well as use graphic novels in my classroom library. It helps students to feel more confident, and ultimately, be more successful, in English Language Arts.”


MIDDLE-LEVEL AWARD

Middle-Level Awardee – “Mollie” (Mary) Kelleher

Pop Culture Classroom - Mollie KelleherAfter teaching in Montana for ten years, Mollie Kelleher joined the St. Vrain Valley School District in 2000 where she has taught English, language arts, and most recently computer science. Kelleher loves all things sci fi and has been a Star Trek fan since the first episode aired in 1966.

“Pop culture provides excellent resources for making abstract concepts accessible to middle and high school students. Did you know that a monologue from Kill Bill provides a perfect model of essay development? Or that The Matrix contains every element of the hero’s journey? Sheldon’s friendship algorithm helps students understand how to program decision trees and avoid infinite loops, and a contagion simulation is so much more interesting when framed as the zombie apocalypse. And what’s cooler programming than a Dr. Who version of PacMan, complete with talking Daleks? Nothing, that’s what.”


HIGH SCHOOL-LEVEL AWARD

High School-Level Awardee – William M. Plumb

Pop Culture Classroom - William PlumbWill Plumb is a Social Studies teacher at Laramie High School in Laramie WY. In addition to teaching, he is the sponsor and co-sponsor for the Pop Culture, Japanese, Key Club, and S.A.L.L.Y. (Safe Area for LHS LGBTQ Youth) clubs. When not at school he can be found relaxing with his family, playing Netrunner, or playing drums for the band Sunnydale High.

“Why do I use Pop Culture in my classes? Comic books, games, and sci-fi have always been part of my life so it has always been part of my classroom. In recent years I began implementing board games and comics to help my students understand tough concepts and practice analyzing the media they are bathed in daily.  Most students are naturally drawn to games, comics, and pop media which gives students a shared schema. That schema gives students practice in decoding their world and lets me create more effective and engaging lessons.”


POST-SECONDARY-LEVEL AWARD

Post-Secondary Awardee – Dr. Cristopher Bell

Pop Culture Classroom - Dr. Cristopher BellDr. Christopher Bell is the Director of Graduate Studies and an Associate Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He specializes in the study of popular culture, focusing on the ways in which race, class and gender intersect in different forms of media, particularly dystopian young adult literature and tween television programming.

“I make extensive use of popular culture to reflect upon the state of race and gender relations in contemporary society. It is one of the most useful tools at our disposal in the development of student consciousness surrounding these issues, because teaching students about race and gender is really, really difficult. Using popular culture to demonstrate the ways in which students are intentionally socially conditioned into particular world views can oftentimes soften the blow and open students up to a new way of thinking about the issues without so much ‘skin in the game.’”