Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!

Lance Tuula of Rockton has been teaching fourth or fifth grades for 13 years, first at Ralston Elementary, the last 11 at Whitman Post.  Known as the “go-to guy” for technology, Lance is a Smartboard trainer for the Rockton School District, sharing his knowledge not just with his students, but also with his peers. This year, he is also leading Whitman Post’s one-to-one initiative; each of his students has a Chromebook to use daily as part of the classroom learning culture. He also uses many non-traditional instructional tools and props. For example, at the start of each school year, Lance hands out blank puzzle pieces to each student to personalize with his/her own skills, favorite things or sources of pride. They then put the pieces together to show that each is unique, but all are needed for the puzzle to be whole. His tactics must work, as his principal, Megan Forsythe, says that every year, she places a student with behavioral concerns in his classroom because she knows he will ”find a way to reach that child and make sure the student experiences success.” Lance describes himself as an “Edu-tainer.” A former student explained that Lance “comes up with awesome ways to teach us new things – it’s like he tricks us into learning.”  Lance says, “the classroom is my stage. My classroom is not just a room; it is an arena of performance, laughter, love and compassion. The teacher on that stage may be my regular self; it may be me in a set of wacky glasses holding Thor’s hammer, talking about what our society has taken from the Vikings. Learning is too much fun to just follow a straight line!” Lance strives to make sure that in his classroom, “no matter their performance level, each student knows the entire arena will always be cheering for them in the end.”