Phoenix teacher among 52 selected for 2017 PBS Digital Innovators Program

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A kindergarten teacher in Phoenix, Arizona, has been selected as one of 52 nationwide educators for the fifth-annual PBS Digital Innovators Program.

Stepping into Amber Akapnitis’ classroom at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, you would see a productive, fun environment. But, Akapnitis explained, “My class is busier in the air with hands than sound.” Her students’ native language is American Sign Language.

Akapnitis decided to join a global collaboration project to connect her students with friends from all over the globe. “Through technology, they have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the leaves changing in Atlanta,” she said. “It makes them real global thinkers.”

In partnership with Arizona PBS, Akapnitis will serve as education partner, deepening the connection between the educator community and Arizona PBS. The program recognizes classroom changemakers — educators who skillfully approach education with a bold and fresh perspective, and who integrate digital media and resources into their classrooms in a way that sparks a love of learning for their students.

“Education is a critical part of our mission at Arizona PBS, and Amber is an excellent representative for our state,” said Arizona PBS General Manager Mary Mazur. “It’s wonderful to see teachers being recognized for their commitment and the good they do in their classrooms and community. This partnership offers tremendous digital resources that teachers can take back into their students.”

Among other teachers selected were educators who are using 3-D printers with their students to create prosthetic limbs; a technology coach whose classroom is a “STEM Bus”; and co-teachers who use technology to bring their students together in one class, even though they’re in physical classrooms that are miles apart. A panel of esteemed judges selected the 52 PBS Digital Innovators from across the United States, representing each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

PBS Digital Innovators also participate in ongoing professional development; share their ideas on PBS platforms; have access to exclusive resources from PBS LearningMedia; receive a free PBS Teacherline professional development course; and are invited to special events, including the 2017 PBS Digital Summit. This year’s summit, in San Antonio, Texas, takes place directly before the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.

“We were struck by the creativity and passion of this year’s applicants,” said Sara Schapiro, vice president of Education, PBS. “The 2017 PBS Digital Innovators are a passionate group of educators who are committed to changing the way students learn through technology and digital media. Education is at the core of PBS’ mission and as a key partner with parents and educators across America, we’re excited for the opportunity to learn from and work with these classroom change makers as they partner with PBS member stations to share content that truly engages and empowers students in every community.”

The full list of the 2017 PBS Digital Innovators, their profiles and photographs can be found at More than 100,000 digital resources, including lesson plans, worksheets, video content and more are available through PBS LearningMedia for pre-K- 12 classrooms. Teachers can access this content at

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