Congratulations to the winners and finalists of the Georgia Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Awards who attended our Regional Leadership Summit on March 25, 2022, at Global Learning 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...

Summer Carlton & Gina Looney

Sam Brooks
Supervisor of Personalized Learning, Putnam County School System

Sam Brooks has been very honored to work for the Putnam County School System for the past seven years, first, as an Onsite Facilitator for online learning at a local high school where he "cut his teeth" and gained knowledge of personalized learning. Brooks then moved to a leadership role as Supervisor of Personalized for the Putnam County School System in Cookeville, TN. The Future Ready program in Putnam County has grown to include online credit advancement, credit recovery, early postsecondary, blended learning, full-time 3rd-12th grade virtual School (Putnam County VITAL), as well as providing professional development for the 22 schools within our district. VITAL has also implemented a K-8 full-time district homeschool, as well as an early college dual enrollment program (VITAL Collegiate High School) in the fall of 2014. The Future Ready program has hosted over 75 site visits over the past four years from districts interested in the operation of our personal learning program. Mr. Brooks and the Future Ready program is very excited to offer personal learning opportunities to Putnam County students. Currently, courses are offered for students in grades K-12 during the regular school year and during the summer months. Mr. Brooks is also a Google Certified Trainer responsible for over 125 Google Suite professional development training for teachers/administrators in the Putnam County School district and around the Southeast region of the United States. Mr. Brooks built a Google Training Website for the Putnam County School system to train teachers and is now being used in three countries and many states across the US. The mission of the Future Ready VITAL Program is to provide students with a high-quality, flexible, technology-based educational opportunity that allows them to maximize their potential to serve and participate productively in 21st-century society in an anytime/anywhere atmosphere. Mr. Sam Brooks, Supervisor of Personalized Learning for Putnam County Schools, was recognized for the following: Center for Digital Education as a National Top 30 Technologists, Transformers, and Trailblazers for 2014. Recognized in March 2015 by the District Administration Magazine as a District of Distinction via a nationwide identification/selection process. Selected to serve on the Tennessee Department of Education Personalized Learning Task Force Selected to serve on the Tennessee Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Task Force Selected by Clayton Christensen Institute for Proof Points Article highlighting the Future Ready VITAL program. Putnam County Schools, through the Future Ready VITAL program, was selected as the first district in the US to be awarded BLU (Blended Learning Universe) District recognition Selected BrightBytes Innovator of Distinction in 2016 Featured by the Evergreen Group and The Foundation for Blended and Online Learning. The Digital Learning Strategies for Rural America national report features schools, districts, and programs from around the nation having great success in personalizing learning for students. Tech & Learning Magazine Innovator Award for Implementation of Digital Curriculum.

Claudia Martinez
ESOL Teacher and Adjunct Professor, Tattnall County Schools

Claudia Martinez, Ed.D, is a multilingual teacher at North Tattnall Middle School. She is the 2020 GATESOL Teacher of the Year and the 2021 Recipient of the GATESOL Project/Professional Development Grant I: PK-12. Dr. Martinez believes in the importance of critical and culturally relevant and anti-oppressive practices. She has planned and led many district lessons, programs, and celebrations that teach and celebrate diversity.

Dr. Kristy Beam
Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, City Schools of Decatur

Dr. Kristy Beam serves as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning in a suburb very close to Atlanta, Georgia. Beam’s professional career spans 24 years in the fields of education. Her experience includes teaching grades 3-12 in public education, administrator in the public and private, international setting, and preparing teachers in the university setting. She has extensive experience in successful school improvement and has led in a variety of schools. Deeply understanding that schools must move beyond random acts of improvement to targeted, intentional moves, Dr. Beam helps educators examine data to create and implement strategic plans to achieve their goals.

Cristin Kennedy
Director, Instructional Technology, Cobb County School District

Cristin Kennedy is the Director of the Instructional Technology team for the Cobb County School District (CCSD) located in Marietta, Georgia. Before being named Director in August 2015, Cristin held teaching and leadership roles in the Cobb County School District. Over the last thirty years, she has experience teaching grades K-10, regular and gifted education, in a variety of schools in the District, as well as, leadership roles such as instructional technology specialist and a learning support specialist. As director, Cristin leads a team of twenty-seven Technology Training/Integration Specialists (TTIS) who serve 112+ schools, K-12. The CCSD Instructional Technology (#CobbInTech) team provides a variety of professional learning opportunities to support teachers and leaders transform their classrooms/schools to 'digital age classrooms'.

Our finalists...

  • Heather Finley and the FCSS Technology Team
    Fannin County School System
  • Brian Trent
    Director of Technology, Houston County School District
  • Allie Justice
    Information Technology Specialist, Rabun County School System
  • Michelle Bergozza
    Elementary Science Content Coordinator, Dougherty County School System


  • Jessica Chastain
    Director of Student Services, Gilmer County Schools


  • Eston Melton
    Chief Information Officer, City Schools of Decatur


  • Jamilah A Hud-Kirk
    Principal, Clayton County Public Schools/Fountain Elementary


  • John Gerakitis
    Producer for School Livestream Sports Telecasts, The Lovett School


  • Monika Davis
    Interim Chief Information Officer, DeKalb County School District