Mrs. Shannon Steimel, Hazelwood School District Library Media Specialist, is an Innovative Technology Education Fund’s 2017 Innovator Grant recipient and former Substantial Use Partner.

For most of her 20-year career, Mrs. Steimel has served as a Language Arts teacher and Library Media Specialist. Through her work, Mrs. Steimel advocates for equitable use and access to educational technology. “Students are becoming creators and not just consumers of technology,” she says.

During her time as a Library Media Specialist at the Lift for Life Academy, Mrs. Steimel was awarded a 2017 Innovator Grant for her project, Building Perspective and Empathy Through 21st Century Photography.

The project used photography as a vehicle to explore empathy and community. “Everyone has a camera in their pocket now but there is a lot more to understanding photography,” Mrs. Steimel says. With the help of the grant and the educators involved, students worked alongside professional photographers, learned how to use photography equipment like DSLR cameras and 360° cameras, and participated in school photography field trips. Mrs. Steimel shared how a lot of students have a love for photography and that it was great to see them be inspired. (To learn more about the project, visit

Receiving the grant was not easy, however. Mrs. Steimel shared how it took her several tries and a lot of learning to be awarded the Innovator Grant. She shares a key to a successful grant proposal: “The Innovative Technology Education Fund wants to find the next idea that educators could try. It really has to start with the passion and interests of the educators and the students.” Mrs. Steimel encourages educators to attend Innovator Grant workshops, include students in the grant-writing process, and be inspired by how previous grant recipients brought innovation to the classroom as they craft their grant applications.

After being awarded the Innovator Grant, Mrs. Steimel became an Innovative Technology Education Substantial Use Partner. This pre-pandemic partnership provided her students with hotspots for their homes. “At the time,” Mrs. Steimel shares, “The charter school I was in was not 1:1 in technology. Students enrolled in dual enrollment and students doing credit recovery needed to have access to devices and connectivity at home.” While the pandemic brought about a lot of programs that helped families access at-home WiFi, Mrs. Steimel now worries that these programs will run out of funds and many student homes will go “dark” again. She continues to partner alongside the Innovative Technology Education Fund to provide hotspots to students.

Mrs. Steimel continues her efforts to promote digital literacy. She recently received her Mindfulness, SEL, and Yoga Teacher Certification from Breathe For Change, an organization whose goal is to get educators to incorporate social learning and awareness in the classroom. “Digital citizenship is one of the areas that I am always focused on, presenting lessons to students on how to be good digital citizens,” She says. “However, I have become particularly interested in digital well-being and how much screen time they are getting.” Mrs. Steimel is interested in seeing how she can use this new knowledge to continue promoting digital literacy and equity.