Student hopes to boost elementary learning with technology

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

Dornan-80GRAHAM, Wash. – “Exceptional” and “exemplary,” Elissa Dornan is the last teacher standing in Washington state. As a finalist for a regional teaching prize of $100,000, she is up against a teacher from Blackfoot, Idaho, and another from Billings, Mont.

From now until the end of November, popular vote will determine who will win the grant. People can vote once per day at

Dornan is an elementary school teacher in Graham, Wash., and is also earning her principal certification through the College of Education at Washington State University Vancouver.

Dreaming big with technology

Dornan teaching. (Photos courtesy of Bethel School District)

She is one of three finalists in the Northwest for the grant from Farmers Insurance, part of the company’s Dream Big Teacher Challenge. Each of the country’s five major regions will have a winner.

Dornan’s proposal focuses on incorporating more technology at Rocky Ridge Elementary School where she works. That would include equipping each grade with iPads with educational software. It would also include computers to aid in meeting nationwide Common Core education standards.

Dornan said her school has 60-70 percent of students living poverty, with limited access to technology.

“The opportunities this grant would provide for our students would level the playing field,” she said.

Proposal encompasses community

Dornan with some of her class.

“Her proposal is remarkable,” said Randy Rice, Farmers’ national education programs manager, in a news release. “What’s so special about it is, it’s not about her; it goes beyond her to the entire school and really to the community.”

“Elissa Dornan is not just a great teacher, she is an exceptional one,” said Michelle Fox, principal of Rocky Ridge Elementary School. “She possesses all the attributes of an exemplary teacher. She is a phenomenal educator.”

Fox said the whole process has been fantastic, but hopes the last day is the best.

“The real fun will be the day the grant is awarded and our kids find out they will be getting iPads in their classroom,” she said. “That will be the happiest day in Rocky Ridge history.”