Linnaea Gossard was learning remotely before it was cool. A senior at Cooper Landing School’s one-room schoolhouse, Gossard has taken 24 live/synchronous classes at eight different Kenai Peninsula Borough School District institutions over the last six years and will become Cooper Landing School’s first high school graduate in May.
Gossard was also named the Alaska Society for Technology in Education’s 2021 Student of the Year.
Gossard’s teachers and family, district staff and KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien were some of the people in attendance during a surprise — and remote — award ceremony on Friday afternoon, where she learned she was this year’s honoree.
ASTE President Amanda Adams, who is also a KPBSD employee, made opening remarks during the ceremony. In choosing the student honoree, Adams said, ASTE looks for students who are knowledge constructors, empowered learners and are global and creative communicators.
“I am lucky enough to be not only representing ASTE today, but I’m also a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employee,” Adams said Friday. “In my various capacities with KPBSD — I’ve known Linnaea since she was in the second grade — [I] have the unique opportunity to watch the progression from the outside, crossing into her world periodically.”
Gossard is a certified Video Tele Communications (VTC) facilitator and coordinator and currently serves as an intern at KPBSD’s VTC Coordinating Program, which she co-created. The program allows the district’s remote students to take live/synchronous classes that are not available at their home schools. Gossard has also been approached by educational groups and VTC businesses looking for advice on how to improve VTC in education and has presented at distance learning conferences and workshops.
“Your portfolio of work and experiences in the area of video conferencing technology and VTC would be impressive even for an early professional, let alone a high school senior,” O’Brien said during the ceremony. “Congratulations Linnaea … this is so well deserved, and as a testament to your hard work and dedication to VTC.”
Gossard, who was told she would be meeting with a teacher from New York, did not know she had been named Student of the Year.
“I did not expect this at all,” Gossard said. “I’m just a little surprised. … I’m not really sure what to say. I am really appreciative of the honor. Thank you, everyone.”
Soldotna High School Teacher Rob Sparks, who nominated Gossard for the award and is one of her teachers, was one of many who praised Gossard’s efforts.
“Linnaea has helped me become a better teacher by virtue of her patience and vast array of communication skills,” Sparks wrote. “In over 30 years of teaching, Linnaea is without a doubt one of the most skillful, honest, engaged, caring students I have had the pleasure to work with.”
Soldotna High School Science Teacher Phil Leck said that just as he was teaching Gossard course material, she was teaching him about polycom and remote learning.
“Considering our current state of online learning, we need more Linnaea’s in the world,” wrote Leck. “Hard workers that don’t make excuses. No matter the challenge or obstacle, Linnaea always found a way to make it work.”
In all, more than 10 written comments were submitted from instructors in Alaska and around the country praising Gossard’s efforts.
“[Gossard] communicates clearly and precisely with confidence,” wrote Inspired Classroom Creative Director Sam Angel, from Missoula Montana. “Linnaea is the clear choice for the ASTE Student of the Year and I would love to work with her again.”
Several people who attended Friday’s ceremony joked about how difficult it was to keep the award a secret.
“It was really hard in our household; we almost blew it many times,” said Gossard’s mom, Virginia Morgan, who also serves on the KPBSD Board of Education.
Gossard said Friday that the ceremony took her completely by surprise and that when she saw everyone joining the Zoom call she thought she would be giving her presentation to the entire school board instead of just a single teacher.
“I was definitely surprised,” Gossard said. “I had no idea that I was even nominated.”
Gossard said that after she graduates she wants to go to college and study communications.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.