Education Technology

The Stilwell Award

Published: 3/6/2024 11:18 AM

​​​KDE instituted the Stilwell Award for those outstanding partners who have helped KDE fulfill their mission to the students and citizens of the commonwealth.

Dr. William E. Stilwell was the first recipient and namesake of the award that recognized technology partnerships.  Bill passed away in April of 2014.  He was an emeritus faculty member of the University of Kentucky's  College of Education.  He was the overwhelming first choice for this award, and naming it after him was a reflection of the selfless work he did to improve educators' access to modern technology.  Stilwell managed LISTSERVs and provided faculty support within the College 
David Couch, Associate Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education's Office of Education Technology  services stated  "I wanted to do something that recognized an unsung hero that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the area of education technology for many years and helped  K-12 students, teachers and administrators. Bill was that person.  Even when he retired he kept the K-12 LISTSERV in operation. It is perhaps the best example of what was intended between K-12 and Higher Ed in the 1990 education reform act."  


Every year after 2008, Bill would pop up at the right moment in his signature red suspenders and join the staff for a KY K-12 webcast to surprise a new person/organization with “The Stilwell". He was always part of the process in selecting the award winner
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) presents the award on an annual basis. The notation on the award reads, “For personal dedication and outstanding service in education technology for the teachers and children of the commonwealth."
Stilwell often said, "This award recognizes the outreach by the University and by the College faculty and staff to the K-12 community."


 2008 Stilwell Award Winner

2008 Stilwell Video Presentation

Testimonials to view what school districts and KDE customers said during the award webcast regarding Bill as the first recipient of the award.

Stilwell Remarks - Interview with Bill Stilwell after the webcast.

​2009 Stilwell Award Winner

 The 2009 Stillwell award winner was Bob Tarvin of the School Facilities Construction Commission. Bob has been an outstanding partner from the beginning of KERA and KETS who has helped by working with all groups to further the overall plan for moving Kentucky schools forward using technology.  Bob gave a brief overview of the School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC) and its role in education technology and school construction.

2009 Stilwell Video Presentation

​​2010 Stilwell Award Winner

The 2010 Stilwell Award and suspenders were presented to the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education (KySTE).  Over the past few years, this organization has helped to lead in educating teachers and others in the districts on what they need to know about education technology, all above and beyond the call of duty and on a volunteer basis.  Bryan Sweasy accepted the award for the group.  

The Kentucky Academy for Technology Education (KATE) lead by Brenda Nix, Kentucky Education Technology (KET), Kristen Reed of Dell, and Keith Exley of Dell, were all deserving nominees for the award.


 2010 Stilwell Video Presentation

2011 Stilwell Award Winner

Over the past 4 years the Stilwell Award has been given out to individuals or groups that make a real difference in providing educational technology to the districts in partnership with KDE. The 2011 Stilwell Award winner is Kentucky Educational Television (KET).  The KDE and KET partnership is a true example of how two government agencies should work together on common projects.

 2011 Stilwell Video Presentation 

2012 Stilwell Award Winner

The 2012 Stilwell award winner is the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education (KATE).  KATE was created in 1996 as a collaborative effort designed to improve instruction and learning in Kentucky schools. The mission of the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education KATE is to impact student learning by promoting best-practice uses of technology and 21st Century Learning. KATE is committed to providing visionary leadership and high-quality resources that are readily available to educators in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

 2012 Stilwell Video Presentation

2013 Stilwell Award Winner

 The 2013 Stilwell Award and the accompanying red suspenders were awarded to three exemplary partners January 21, 2014.  Apple (iTunesU), Microsoft (Office 365), and Tyler Industries (MUNIS to the cloud) have all recently completed large scale successful KY K-12 projects that benefit all 173 school districts and have received national recognition.  Moreover, each of these KETS partners has taken the time to understand our business and intricacies of how we operate.  In doing so, they have worked to help us provide innovative enterprise solutions and continue to move Kentucky schools forward utilizing technology.

These three vendors were awarded their plaques and suspenders during the January 21, 2014 District/CIO Webcast hosted by Thomas Nelson High School.  David Couch, Associate Commissioner for the Office of Knowledge, Information and Data Services (KIDS) presented this annual award along with Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Roger Marcum.

 2013 Stilwell Video Presentation

​2014 Stilwell Award Winner

The 2014 Stilwell and the accompanying red suspenders was awarded to Kentucky Department of Education Associate Commissioner, Hiren Desai.  Hiren leads the Office of Administration and Support which provides oversight, direction and support for the financial and physical resources of KDE and school districts.

After receiving the award, Hiren commented, “It's rare that I am reduced to almost tears in public, but my colleague, David Couch, did that to me today. I don't deserve this by myself and I want to thank and acknowledge all the incredible staff in the Department of Education's Office of Administration and Support who are tireless users, enablers and champions of education technology in the day-to-day mission of the agency. They are the true unsung heroes of the agency, much like Mr. Stillwell, and I am just glad to represent them. Thank you team!"

2014 Stilwell Video Presentation

2015-2016 Stilwell Award Winners

The Kentucky Department of Education recognized two Kentucky lawmakers, Representative Kelly Flood and Senator David Givens, with the 2015-16 Stilwell Award for their personal dedication to and support of education technology.

Rep. Flood of Lexington and Sen. Givens, who is from Greensburg, were successful in their efforts to get an additional $5.8 million appropriated during the 2014-16 biennium in support of five major education technology projects. The initiatives came to fruition in 2015 and 2016, and continue to benefit teachers and the children in each of the state's 173 school districts.            

The projects include:
• faster Internet speeds. In August 2015, Kentucky became the first state in the nation with fiber connections in all schools and   district offices that provided at least 100 kb per student of Internet speed.

• firewall protection from cyberattacks. In November 2015 all 173 districts had this in place.
• an Internet content management system that maximizes the 100 kb per student/digital citizenship. Almost all school districts have transitioned successfully to the new system; the remaining six districts are expected to make the transition this summer or when their existing contracts end.
 additional financial assistance to school districts for technology. The state was able to stretch state funds by taking advantage of the federal E-rate program and was able to help more school districts replace their aging computers.
• Kentucky's first IT Academy for K-12's students. The Kentucky K-12 Microsoft IT Academy launched successfully in August 2015 and has since been renamed the Kentucky K-12 Imagination Academy. Since its inception, students have taken 40,000 IT-related courses and completed more than 25,000 of them. Kentucky K-12 students have successfully completed more than 6,000 professional IT certification exams – the best of any state in the nation during its inaugural year of implementation.

​“Rep. Flood and Sen. Givens are great champions of these as well as other education technology initiatives," Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt said. “They understand the importance of technology in student learning and in preparing students for the world they will enter after they graduate from high school." 

2015-16 Stilwell Video Presentations:

Rep. Kelly Flood

Senator David Givens

Stilwell Highlights

​2016-2017 Stilwell Award Winners

The focus of the 2016-2017 Stilwell Award was to recognize individuals, services and initiatives of the KY K-12 education cooperatives that have had a significant impact on KY K-12 education technology in KY school districts over many years and their work will continue to bear the fruits of their labor for many years going forward. This year there are three Stilwell award winners. 

Terri Stice, Instructional Technology Director, of the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC) was awarded the 2016-2017 Stilwell Awards. GRREC has been invaluable to the districts of Midwestern and South Central Kentucky. Their continuous efforts to provide a platform for sharing ideas, resources, and personnel pays dividends daily. Terri works tirelessly to stay up to date on emerging technology and hosts monthly collaboration meetings for TIS's from around the region. In addition, she's in schools nearly every day training and sharing, which fills the void in districts that lack TIS staff. 

There is no other cooperative over the past 25 years that has had a person so focused and successful in helping districts maximize technology in instruction in the classroom. GRREC isn't just a coop for bidding contacts, it's the center of all instructional sharing and collaboration for classroom teachers and school/district leadership throughout this part of the state and is one of the primary reasons this part of the state has so many distinguished districts and so many districts that have embraced technology as an integral part of their plans to ensure students are college and career ready. 

Terri Stice
Pictures- Stillwell Award for Terri Stice
               Terri Stice and Commissioner

The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative's (KVEC) Appalachian Renaissance Initiative (ARI), lead by Jeff Hawkins, Paul Green and Andrew Castle, is a 2016-2017 Stilwell Award winner, for their success in keeping their digital promise in implementing a variety of large scale KY K-12 edtech initiatives over the past 4 years in eastern Kentucky.

That digital promise has had a very strong edtech emphasis over the past four years and the investment will have a powerful long lasting effect in accelerating innovation in education.  We've seen (a) lots of very good student technology leadership program (STLP) initiatives giving KVEC's digital promise credit for their birth and success over the past 4 years and (b) many other edtech initiatives that are shown at KVEC's annual ARI summit in Pikeville. No other educational cooperative in KY has had more major edtech initiatives that directly impact the classroom over the past 4 years than KVEC. 

Their major KY K-12 edtech accomplishments through ARI initiative are:

  • Next Generation Classroom Technology in every school in the KVEC region that includes a 70+ inch touchscreen computer, microphones, speaker system, multiple cameras and a classroom set of devices. Total install and distribution completed during a 60 day time frame.
  • Ongoing support for districts toward a 1:1 model that is scaffolded over a 4 year period.
  • Placement of a Blended Learning Coach for Region focused on the use of Technology for instruction.
  • Placement and partnership with Districts to staff Innovation Coordinators in all districts.
  • Creation of a Blended Learning “Professional Action Network" designed to provide professional learning opportunities for classroom practitioners led by classroom practitioners. - - A network that has grown into more than 100 members crossing 19 districts working on innovation in the use of technology for learning.
  • Creation of – a place-based social learning network for Central Appalachia that includes communication and sharing capability, a digital storytelling component, a storehouse of curricular and instructional material, a storehouse of leadership development materials, archived Learning Innovation presentations, an LMS component, etc.
  • Live Streamed Learning Innovation presentations from the regional FIRE Summits (Forging Innovation in Rural Education). 11 simultaneous live streams that are viewed by a national and international audience – In April of 2017 more than 17,000 viewers from 26 states and 7 countries. All presentations archived on the Nearly 400 Learning Innovation presentations have been catalogued so far.
  • Launch of the Appalachian Technology Institute – designed to increase opportunity for students by increasing the range of approved coursework in varied career pathways including Computer Coding, Robotics, Information Technology, Aviation and Aerospace.
  • Partnership with local governments, higher education and business partners to develop the USA Droneport – a testing, research and manufacturing site in the region that will connect education opportunities to design and manufacturing.
  • The Holler - A Place-based Social Learning Network for Central Appalachia : Connecting students, teachers and community members with innovative technology and digital storytelling in Eastern Kentucky and rural America.

KVEC Stilwell Presentation
Pictures- KVEC Stillwell Award
               KVEC David and Marty

Kentucky Education Development Cooperative (KEDC)

The final 2016-2017 Stilwell award was given because of the  technology services provided by KEDC and in particular their technology leader Jerry Prince.  

The following link leads to the technology services at KEDC and KEDC also offers financial consulting to their members and there is a listing on their website about these services. KEDC played a huge role in the first decade of KETS with Munis getting stabilized/maximized in district offices and getting the edtech network infrastructure in lots of KY school buildings….and they still play a very active role with getting edtech infrastructure in KY school buildings and with Munis support. 

KEDC Stilwell Video Presentation

Pictures: Jerry Prince

2017-2018 Stilwell Award Winners

Dr. Gerry Swan from University of Kentucky is one of the recipients for the 2018 Stilwell Award for his leadership with the Digital Driver's License (DDL) project.  What started as a big idea with a few of our CIOs quickly turned into a working prototype and delivered open model for a stronger implementation of Digital Citizenship in our KY schools.  Using the DDL as a learning tool, students can prove that they understand ALL nine elements of digital citizenship.  Meanwhile, our school and district leaders can feel better about knowing which students have engaged in the learning (and proof of learning) and which students have not through the admin reporting features.  After the success of the DDL for Digital Citizenship, teacher Peer Observation and Peer to Peer coaching was added as an additional module and quickly over 8,000 received their DDL badge for Peer to Peer coaching and a new delivery of professional learning was embraced.  Additionally, with the passing of a 2017 bill for students to take a Civics test prior to graduation, while not required, the Civics module was added to the DDL and many districts are choosing to deliver the civics test through the DDL since their students are already familiar with it. 

The UK Next Generation Leadership Academy also received the 2018 Stilwell award for their leadership in working with districts to redesign learning experiences powered by technology (Specifically, this is Lu Young, Carmen Coleman, Justin Bathon, Linda France). While the academy's focus is not singularly on technology, the 60+ Kentucky school districts who have joined the academy in the past 7 years are among our hardest digital chargers.  The UK Next Generation Leadership Academy has their boots on the ground and joined the front lines with our school and district leaders to implement some major digital design. 

Pictures -  Dr. Gerry Swan

                UK Next Generation Leadership Academy  

 2019-2020 Stilwell Award Winners

The Stilwell Award and the KySTE Awards are the equivalent of being selected to go into the Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) Hall of Fame. During Tuesday's KY K-12 CIO/edtech leaders webcast from Frankfort Independent schools, we totally surprised 7 new recipients of the 2019-2020 Stilwell award, who had no idea or expectation that they'd be receiving statewide recognition. It is the tradition of The Stilwell Award to totally surprise the recipient(s) at a KY K-12 school and/or KY K-12 event. And we did just that. 

The following 7 folks, in a variety of behind the scenes leadership positions from our Office of Education Technology, represent close to 200 years of high quality distinguished service to KY and KY K-12 schools. I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by all of them over the past 25 years. Thank you for your dedicated and outstanding service to our state, KY K-12 students, teachers, leaders and staff.  Kentucky has been “the" pioneer and national leader in most aspects of K-12 education technology over the past 25 years and these seven folks have played a huge role in helping make that happen. 

• Phil Coleman was the original KETS engineer in 1993 for region 8 (eastern KY) when we first deployed KETS. In 1998 he came to KDE and took on the leadership role as the KY K-12 chief technology officer (CTO) running all the edtech services we provide to all KY K-12 school districts and for KDE staff. And he done that extremely well since 1998. The size and scope of KETS is 8 times larger than the rest of KY state and local government combined and uses 25 times more Internet than the rest of KY state government combined. Few Fortune 100 companies have a bigger tech footprint and service responsibility than KY K-12's edtech systems.
 • DeDe Conner established our first data division in KDE, set up data governance within KDE, established the statewide eTranscripts initiative that was noticed worldwide for KY being one of the first to establish this across the states.  Her School Report Card work has gotten an A+ rating. She is our KY K-12 Chief Data Officer and is responsible for our student information system for all 172 districts and our enterprise reporting responsibilities. She is involved in national work and is current chair of the National Forum on Education Statistics, TECH Committee. There is no harder worker than DeDe Conner.

 • Bob Hackworth has the most varied background as it relates to OET.  Bob is a former KY teacher, he was a part of the original team in 1993 that helped implement the Internet, e-mail and financial management system in every KY school district making the KY the first to do all three statewide.  He was a KETS engineer for our central KY districts, was an original member of the KY virtual high school, was the original leader of our longitudinal data system and now he serves as our KY K-12 Chief Cyber Security Officer.

• Mike Leadingham was the 1st project manager to manage our district administrative system (DAS) implementation in Kentucky that began in 1993-94. The DAS included historic moments like KY K-12 becoming the first state to get (a) Internet to every KY K-12 district office in all 120 counties in just 11 months, (b) an automated financial management system  and (c) e-mail established in all district offices across and entire state. Mike was a KETS engineer in Region 7 and now serves as Director of OET's School Technology Planning and Project Management.

• John Logan has 29 years of service to OET. John started out scanning tests scores for KDE as a seasonal employee.  He was our first policy advisor in OET. John worked alongside Terry Orr and was the behind the scenes technology architect of a high percentage of most of our most historic, largest and successful KY K-12 technology enabled projects. Both extremely technology component and a gifted communicator. 

 • Lisa Moore was a member of the original Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) staff in 1992.  A former teacher, Lisa has held a variety positions in OET. Worked on the very first KETS Master Plan at the Office level.  Then served as assistant director of one of OET's divisions and is now is our OET policy advisor keeping close tabs on any legislation, regulation and/or policy that may involve or impact KY K-12 edtech. 

​• Terry Orr was given the Stilwell Award posthumously.  Terry joined OET as the project manager for the first KY K-12 Active Directory implementation in 2002.  He passed away in July of last year.  On our KETS Timeline, he was the project manager for nearly all of our most historic, largest and successful technology enabled projects for KY K-12 schools.  He is the MVP of all project managers that we've ever had as a part of KETS.  

Pictures -  2019-2020 Stilwell Group Shot

2020-2022 Stilwell Award 

A “special version" of the Stilwell “red suspenders" award, a meritorious medal in the form of a commemorative coin was presented by KY K-12 Education Commissioner Jason Glass and David Couch, Associate Commissioner for Office of Education Technology, to all the key KY K-12 Education Technology staff in OET and KY K-12 school districts.  This “special coin" was given for their successful and meritorious tour of duty of providing crucial role and quality education technology services on the school campus and beyond the school campus for KY K-12 students, teachers, staff and leaders to each district during the core of the pandemic beginning on 10 March 2020 during the 1st day of the 2020 KY Society of Technology in Education (KySTE) conference and ending on 11 March 2022 the last day of the 2022 KySTE conference. District CIO, DTC, digital learning coach, library media specialist, technicians/network admin, virtual/remote learning leader, data systems staff, STLP coach/mentor and OET staff member that played a crucial role during that timeframe when education technology was counted on more than any other time in KY K-12 history received this award as a simple but heartfelt way to say, “Thanks for what was accomplished and sacrificed over those 24 months".

One of the US Army's most prestigious awards is the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM). This special Stilwell award is the equivalent version of the MSM.  During those 24 months, KY K-12 Education Technology staff not only survived and but thrived in providing quality EdTech enabled products and services to KY K-12 students, teachers and staff, across this entire state, amongst all the sudden demands, uncertainty and intensity going on during that timeframe.  Lots of folks do great things who are never publicly thanked or recognized. This is especially true in the technology field where the average person is not aware of the great skill, long hours and dedication that it takes to make the EdTech work and then help folks do wonderful magical/educational things with it.  No money comes with the Stilwell award, but folks greatly appreciate a simple “thanks" and “high five" for a job well done.

Nearly every one of the past Stilwell award winners had never been publicly thanked or recognized for their role in helping KY K-12 be successful until they received the Stilwell.

Over those 24 months, peers in the other 49 states regularly said, “KY K-12 EdTech is what they strive to be". Our secret sauce in KY K-12 is our cooperative and helpful relationships within districts, between districts, with KDE Office of Education Technology (OET) staff and our true vendor partners in EdTech. No other state has “this" secret sauce. KY K-12 EdTech has been and continues to be “the" pioneer and “the" national leader in most aspects of K-12 EdTech over the past 30 years. Our KETS Timeline (at KETS 2018 - 2024 Master Plan - Appendix G - Kentucky Department of Education) and 2022 Digital Readiness Infographic ( at KETS 2018 - 2024 Master Plan - Appendix B - Kentucky Department of Education) easily supports that statement. This past planning and implementation of KY K-12 EdTech, greatly positioned KY K-12 during those 24 months, however “the" key ingredient to that success was the quality EdTech people, their dedication and skills during that 24-month timeframe. 

Office of Education Technology Staff Listing who received Stilwell Award​

​​​ OET Staff Stilwell Pictures​  

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 1

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 2

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 3

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 4

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 5

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 6

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 7

2022 Stilwell Awardees - Region 8

Kentucky Board of Education Presentation of 2022 Stilwell Awardees from KSB & KSD​​

William E. Stilwell, Professor received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1969. His areas of research interests included human service delivery systems, counseling psychology training, and technology in psychological services. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Stilwell retired in June of 2006.  


On May 19, 2016 Bret Foster, former Chief Information Officer for Anderson County Schools and long time friend of Bill Stilwell established the annual "Red Suspender Day" event after the passing of Dr. Stilwell to continue to honor his work and passions.

Bret shares: "Dr. Stilwell had a direct impact on my life and career and I could never thank him enough for encouraging and standing up for a young man with unclear career aspirations.  He sent me my first email and challenged me to be a better person and educator. Thank you Dr. Stilwell, and as you always asked, I will do my best to "keep moving the ball forward!"
The Kentucky Department of Education, Office of Education Technology encourages everyone to wear their  "red suspenders" in celebration of this day.  
​Janice Harris
Office of Education Technology
300 Sower Blvd., 4th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-2020 ext. 2446
Fax (502) 564-1519
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