Call it American Idol for teachers. Every Monday through the end of the month, new videos by Hertz, 31, and the other finalists are posted at http://www.good.is/great-american-teach-off. After a week of voting, the lowest two vote-getters are eliminated. The last teacher left standing when the voting closes on Oct. 30 will be declared the winner.
Hertz's credentials are solid. She's a go-to member of the national education community on technology issues. She blogs at her own site and for a site called Edutopia about technology integration at the elementary level; helped create EdCamp, a local, teacher-run series of free professional development sessions that has spawned spin-offs around the country; and is a moderator of #edchat, a weekly Twitter chat for educators that draws thousands of participants from around the world.
"I love the way technology allows my students to have the learning right there in their hands," Hertz said in a video designed to show how she's an innovative teacher. "I love how students can connect with the whole world. . . . Overall, my philosophy is that education should be about developing independent, critical thinkers. Our students learn by doing, and they learn through experience."
The money would make a difference, Hertz said. The school provides the basics, but she has already had to raise money for extras; to start a robotics club for girls, she's taking donations from her online network. She'd like to outfit Alliance for Progress' computer lab with headphones and microphones for podcasting. She wants to buy licenses for software the school can't afford. Hertz also feels strongly about using some of the $10,000 toward parent resources - a fax machine and more computers so parents can search for jobs. "You can't help the kids if you don't help the parents," she said.
New Jersey teacher Terry Dougherty, who works in Galloway Township, is also in the running for the prize.