NTO gets Apple Distinguished designation

George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa has been selected as an Apple Distinguished School for 2022-2025.

“They’re celebrating our continuous innovation in learning, teaching and the school environment,” Principal Gerardo Ramirez said.

They were selected to apply for the designation. NTO had the Apple Distinguished recognition previously, but it ended in 2015. There were leadership changes at the school, so now that Ramirez has been back for a few years, one of the school goals was to receive the designation again.

He added that the process has also changed.

“It was actually quite a process. We had a committee and we really dug deep into who we are as an organization, what sets us apart, what makes us innovative. Are we truly, seamlessly using technology and then what are the benefits for our learners,” Ramirez said.

“We had quite a bit of committee work to identify who we are as an organization and if we met the criteria that Apple had set forth,” he added.

It took about a year to gather everything they needed to submit the Apple Distinguished School application.

The 10-member committee then gathered information from parents, learners and staff members and they had to publish an application. That publication included NTO’s demographics, more on NTO’s technology usage, what makes them innovative, who they are today as an organization, its vision and mission, what daily learning looks like, student success indicators and what’s next for the organization.

The committee included school administrators, teachers, district personnel and parental feedback through survey and testimony.

There are 698 Apple Distinguished Schools around the world in over 36 countries.

“We’re excited. It’s an honor. I think it really sets us apart and it really highlights the great work that we’ve been doing here at NTO. It’s going to push us to move forward as a learning organization. It was one of my goals as a principal and also our staff, so it’s one of those things that we definitely need to take a moment to celebrate …, so I will celebrate it with my staff. Good things are happening,” Ramirez said.

“It’s really a big honor. It’s a world-wide recognition. We have to meet their qualifications. For example, being one-to-one with Apple devices, making sure our faculty is proficient with their products and then as well as our documented results. According to our state data, we’re doing really well on state accountability,” Ramirez said.

At minimum, 75 percent of teachers have to be Apple certified.

Ramirez said they felt it was important to go for the designation again to highlight the “great work” that’s happening every day.

“We think our kids, our staff really deserve that highlight; that recognition,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to network and partner with other schools. Another big one was to push our staff to that next level when it comes to technology usage. We wanted our graduates to also have that extra edge as they’re applying for colleges and universities and going into career fields,” Ramirez said. “It’s a good resume builder for our learners.”

NTO will receive continuous support from Apple and it has a chance to partner with other schools and learn from them to do their craft better.

They also will get a certificate and banner to display.

The schools NTO will get to network with are all over the world and aren’t necessarily part of the New Tech Network.

“There are a few that are New Tech Network schools, they’re definitely campuses across the country and across the world that are doing innovative and creative things for teaching and learning,” Ramirez said.

All the learners (students) and facilitators (teachers) receive MacBook devices.

“Here at New Tech, it truly is their pen and paper,” Ramirez said.

“We actually have them go through a training that parents are required to attend .. to show them the importance of taking care of the devices, letting them know fees that may apply if it’s not taken care of and then what to look for on the parental side. Once parents attend that meeting, we distribute them the way we would distribute a textbook and they have their devices with them all year round,” Ramirez said.

“We won’t pick them up until the end of the year,” he added.

When the pandemic hit, it was a lot more of a seamless transition to use an electronic platform for NTO. They use the ECHO Learning Management System.

“Our learners and staff were already used to seamlessly using technology,” Ramirez said.

Students come in already comfortable with Windows devices.

“Once we hand our young people their Apple devices, if they’re not already proficient with them they learned to be pretty proficient with them. If anything, as adults, we take longer to adapt and adjust to them. So anytime we have a new hire that’s where it’s going to take a little bit more time, but eventually staff members come along because from the get-go we let our new hires know we’re an Apple school and our learners they’re pretty quick to really experiment with that technology; figure it out; and find their way through it,” Ramirez said.

“One thing that we’re really intentional about, though, is all of our freshmen take a graphic design curse. And in that course, they’re learning the basics of the MacBook — iMovie, Illustrator. They also learn more about our Echo platform,” he added. “That’s a crucial part of our learner four-year plan is making sure they take that course. It’s not enough just to hand them the device, but we have to be intentional in building that toolkit that they need to be successful for their four years at New Tech and beyond.”

Advanced Placement/Dual Credit English facilitator Cheraldin Cellis had a class of juniors in the cafeteria Oct. 7 to do a FaceTime with author Jay Heinrichs, who wrote “Thank You for Arguing What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson can Teach Us about the Art of Persuasion.”

Isabella Carrasco, a 17-year-old junior, said it was really interesting and cool to be able to talk to Heinrichs.

“Not everybody gets the opportunity to do this, and he’s honestly so wise and so what he’s saying anyone can apply in a normal conversation if you’re trying to convince them of something,” Carrasco said.