Features

Dave Termunde – Arbor Park School District 145

Team spirit + tech = learning during a pandemic

Behold the panda, sometimes known as the giant panda, in its natural habitat. Living mainly in temperate forests in southwest China, the black and white bear subsists almost entirely on a diet of bamboo.

Adult pandas may consume as much as 84 pounds of bamboo daily, as females grow to 200 pounds and males to 300 pounds, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

And while pandas are treasured, but still threatened, in their Chinese habitats, a new breed was recently discovered just outside Chicago—a breed so advanced it’s been instrumental in providing the technology that allows local school children to explore new vistas of learning.

Dave Termunde – Arbor Park School District 145

Dave Termunde | Chief Technology Officer | Arbor Park School District 145

Wait.

What?

Indeed, there is a team of pandas providing IT support at Arbor Park School District 145, says CTO Dave Termunde.

“We wanted a front-facing, loud and proud tech department saying, ‘We’re here to help you, students and teachers first,’” he explains. “We’ve branded ourselves so well that people have thought we’re an outside company.”

Birth of a bear

Arbor Park School District 145 has 1,300 students attending four schools split into grade levels from pre-K through middle school. Each school has its own mascot, and with Asset Panda being a district software vendor, and the superintendent fond of the bears, Termunde says the panda brand seemed a natural fit for his team.

So pandas rule in Arbor Park, right down to the black and white uniforms worn by Termunde and his team of four.

In 2017, Termunde arrived with the intention of bringing a comprehensive 1:1 device program to replace the iPads, Samsung tablets and Chromebooks supplied in class and in the district’s computer labs. It took three years to fully launch as he and the Pandas set the groundwork by seeking federal E-Rate funding to improve infrastructure while deciding which devices to supply to students and staff.

Dave Termunde – Arbor Park School District 145

They decided on Microsoft Surface Go tablets, which were first provided to fifth graders for the 2018-19 school year. In fall 2019, the program expanded to include grades 3-8. In K-2 classrooms, iPads remained in use, but on a 1:1 in-class basis, Termunde explains. And the six computer labs have gone the way of floppy disks.

“Now every classroom and the school courtyards are computer labs,” he says. “Teachers are thriving and they understand the benefits of each student having a device.”

Well prepared

Though Microsoft Surface Go devices were the best fit (because Arbor Park Schools already use Microsoft 365 platforms and software), the transition still required company training for teachers and staff, which pulled teachers from their classes.

“There were some impacts on the kids because substitutes were needed,” Termunde says. “But boy, did the training and coaching pay off.”

Dave Termunde – Arbor Park School District 145

The payoff was never more evident than when COVID-19 came to town and schools closed March 13. Though he prides himself on saying “you never know what’s going to happen,” as he considers what Arbor Park schools need, Termunde sure didn’t see this one coming.

Making the shift

But the foundations to shift to e-learning were already in place—there were enough devices so schools never had to send home paper lesson packets. And though teachers in the lower grades had not received as much training from Microsoft, they learned to teach remotely very quickly, he adds.

Teachers used iPads for live lessons, supplemented by many district- provided curriculum resources and ClassLink to deliver content. Collaborating with Camille Hogan, the director of teaching and learning, Termunde found online alternatives to curriculum resources while avoiding free services that might lead to costly and unneeded upgrades.

Dave Termunde – Arbor Park School District 145

Being located so close to Chicago, Arbor Park has reliable high-speed internet, but prior planning also helped ensure all students had access, Termunde says. Though the premise had more to do with emergency preparation as opposed to a public health issue, the Pandas had enrolled Arbor Park in T-Mobile’s EmpowerED program in 2019 and could deploy 25 Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the district after schools closed.

With Arbor Park schools scheduled to reopen August 17, the details were fuzzy in early July, when Termunde spoke to Toggle. The Pandas remain on-site, and tech upgrades include a three-year program to replace whiteboards with models that can link to the Surface Go tablets, enabling teachers to move throughout the classroom as they instruct.

Pandas have also been upgrading school security systems, and Termunde envisions shifting Arbor Park to the cloud to continue the transformation.

Local roots

Termunde did not actually come to Arbor Park School District 145 from a forest in China. In fact, the native of Alsip, Illinois (where his great-grandfather and grandfather both served as mayor), grew up in Orland Park with both an interest in technology and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Termunde has learned and taught at Moraine Valley Community College—he began taking classes there when he was a boy. He has earned an associate degree and several certifications in networking and IT—and he’s been an adjunct instructor there since 2007.

He earned both a bachelor’s in technical management and an associate degree in network system administration from DeVry University. He followed those with a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University. He is currently pursuing his project management graduate certificate at Keller Graduate School of Management.

Dave Termunde – Arbor Park School District 145

As he and Arbor Park administrators wait to see how the new school year will take shape, one certainty is the Pandas will roam, and not just to give out pool floats as achievement prizes like they did this spring.

“Technology is in my blood; I love to see how it impacts students of all ages,” Termunde says. “Tech is no longer a supplement to the classroom. Now it’s a requirement. You have to be uncomfortable, continuously learning and ready to adapt and change.”

Published on: September 10, 2020

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