Congratulations to the winners and finalists of the California Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Awards who attended our Regional Leadership Summit on April 1, 2022, at UC Irvine’s Conference & Esports Center, where our winners were crowned.

Our deserving winners and finalists are all mentioned below, in our article on the Tech & Learning website and interviews with our winners will be published in an upcoming issue of Tech & Learning - keep your eyes peeled!

Our winners...

Steve Harmon, Sergio Rizzi & Bruce Neff
EdTech Specialists, Oak Grove Union School District

Steve Harmon
I have worked in Oak Grove School District for 21 years: 13 years in the classroom teaching History to 7th and 8th grade and the rest as an EdTech Specialist. I originally studied Electronic Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and so have a strong interest and background in technology, which has been a huge benefit throughout my education career as I can understand and interpret for teachers many things they are not knowledgeable about. I love learning and trying new things, as well as challenging the status quo, all of which has meant that this job is a perfect fit for me!

Sergio Rizzi
I have been working at Oak Grove School District for 16 years. My first 8 years as a 5th grade teacher, and now in my 8th year working at the District office as an EdTech Specialist. I enjoy learning and keeping up with all of the advancements that technology is introducing into education, and passing this knowledge onto our staff and students when working with them to develop lessons or solutions to problems they may be experiencing. In recent years, student data privacy has become a focus of mine, and I am dedicated to ensuring that our District is doing the best it can to protect the data of our student population.

Bruce Neff
I have worked in the Oak Grove School District for 20 years. I began my career here as a 4th and 6th grade teacher for 9 years and have spent the last 11 years in the District office as an EdTech Specialist. Over the course of my career I have been part of many changes in how technology has impacted the educational environment, which continues to evolve at a rapid pace. I thoroughly enjoy what I do, having the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge not only with students, staff, and the community of our schools but also with the variety of individuals and companies in the private sector. The challenges and rewards of this ever-changing job is why I love this job so much.

Ling Lam
Director of Educational Technology, Helios School

Ling Lam, M. Ed is a global K-12 educator and instructional coach. Her curriculum and teaching has been recognized, adopted and spread in the US, Switzerland and Asia. Currently, she is the Director of EdTech in a gifted and talented school in Sunnyvale, CA where she continues to create a meaningful learning environment for all students.

Our final category has two winners...

Robert Sidford
Director of Technology and Innovation, Mt. Diablo Unified School District

Sidford joined the team at Mt. Diablo Unified School District at an interesting time – July of 2020. Not one to be dissuaded by a challenge, he launched into action by chairing a representative task force to develop a long-range strategic technology plan at MDUSD. 

During the past 17 months, Sidford also oversaw a district-wide 1-to-1 program to serve 29,000 students. He led a team to prioritize equitable IT service management through a revamped work order system and the restructuring of technician assignments to more equitably serve schools. He initiated streamlined purchasing practices, established responsible partnerships and minimum standards, and drafted a security “risk register” to identify vulnerabilities to mitigate risks. 

Sidford also developed a team-focused “responsibility matrix,” outlining departmental responsibilities and improved student data privacy by collaborating with the instruction and legal teams to develop a clear approval process for digital tools. 

Sophia Mendoza
Director, Instructional Technology, Los Angeles Unified School District

Sophia Mendoza is an innovative, systems-level collaborator with over 20 years of experience as an education leader in L.A. Unified. Leading the implementation of computer science education and digital citizenship programs across 1300 schools. She is committed to cultivating leaders and learners ready for a growing digital world. In 2018, she was named a NextGeneration Leader by EdScoop and CoSN, a Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning, and in 2019 announced as an ISTE Impact Award honoree, Innovator of the Year by Education Dive, and in 2020 announced as the ACSA Region 16 Technology Administrator an honor that recognizes her work in establishing strategic partnerships and programs that expand instructional technology opportunities for all students. Most recently she was elected to the Board of Directors for the International Society for Technology in Education.

Our finalists...

  • Jammie Behrendt
    Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, MPCSD
  • Justin Norcross
    CTO, Inyo County Office of Education
  • Heather Armelino
    Superintendent, Enterprise Elementary School District